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Here Are 7 Major Tournament 'Bolters' From The Past - Some Shone, Some Didn't

By Conor Neville
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Apologies to those single-minded football fans who are allergic to the game of rugby. We are aware that the word 'bolter' is primarily associated with the oval ball game.

But here are seven 'bolters' who were surprising late additions to major tournament squads of days gone by. Slight bias towards Irish stories naturally. And Italian.

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Toto Schillaci

The future star of that Smithwicks ad had never played for Italy before the 1990 World Cup. He grew up in desperate poverty and never received any schooling. He had spent the bulk of his career up to 1990, plugging away in the lower divisions.

He signed for Juventus in 1989, scoring a more than healthy 25 goals in his first season. Still, he was regarded as a wildcard in a squad brimming with established talent.

Wrote his name into the history books over the course of four weeks. It's reminiscent of the Ardal O'Hanlon joke about inviting Neil Armstrong onto a chat show and not mentioning the moon once.


Talking to Schillaci without mentioning Italia 90 would be rather similar. Only scored one more goal for Italy and never played beyond Italy's unsuccessful Euro 92 qualifying campaign.

His career drifted away badly afterwards. His later years barely occupy the status of an afterthought.

When Vicini was replaced by Sacchi, he was completely discarded. And Sacchi tried out a hell of a lot of players.


Denmark - Euro 92 (entire team)

[Watch Video]

Technically, they are all bolters. Denmark's victory in 1992 has prompted many Irish supporters to decide that this was the one which got away. Many supporters of a certain vintage come over all wistful, gaze into the distance, and remark that 'we could have done it, you know'.


The great pity is that war didn't break out in England, allowing us to progress to the tournament in Sweden.

Ireland's frittering away of a freight-load of chances against the Poles let an unhappy, faltering England team off the hook in the qualifiers. They didn't set the world alight in the competition.

Gary Kelly - USA 94


One-third of that band of amigos (obligatory reference), Kelly scored a heavily deflected goal in Hannover as Ireland beat the lethargic World Champions 2-0.

Prior to that game, Ireland had beaten the Dutch 1-0 in Tilburg. Shortly afterwards, they flew to America and, of course, beat Italy 1-0.

Any youngster would have presumed this was a great team to follow.


Reminds one of the slogan that Northern Ireland 'peace' ad from that era in which babies are mingling happily, not asking one another which school they're destined to attend.

'Wouldn't it be great if it was like this all the time?'


Theo Walcott - 2006 World Cup


Always a keen listener to the media's promptings, Sven responded diligently to their need for novelty by picking young Theo to go to Germany for the 2006 World Cup.

It did him no good when people later reflected on a competition in which the young Theo played no games.

Paolo Rossi


The Italian media wailed when the disgraced yesterday's man Paolo Rossi was called up to the squad in 1982.

Rossi had shone at the 1978 World Cup in Argentina where Italy had performed well but fell in the second round group phase. They finished second in the last eight. To progress to the final, one had to top the group. 

In the meantime however, he was embroiled in a match-fixing scandal and was banned for two years. When he returned, he struggled to regain form.

Italy were parodically slow to start at the 1982 World Cup and were lucky to get beyond the group phase. They drew all three matches and their notoriously rough sporting press ripped into them. Rossi was universally labelled their worst player in the opening three games.

They exploded into life in the next phase. Rossi scored an unforgettable hat-trick in one of the most famous World Cup matches ever played. An exhilarating Brazil team were beaten. A tactically perfect performance of the type that Italy - an Italian club team's - have a knack of delivering against supposedly unstoppable juggernauts.

With Rossi in glorious form, Italy powered onto victory.

Chris Morris

The inverse of Liam Brady, Chris Morris played in zero Irish qualifying matches on the road to Euro 88, but played in every game of the tournament proper, as he would again in Italia 90.

Earned his debut in a friendly against Israel in Dalymount Park in November 1987. Ireland won 5-0. It was a record eighth successive win (it remains an Irish record).

It was still presumed we had left it to late and we wouldn't be progressing to the Euros. But the thinking was that all this boded well for Italia 90 qualifying. Big Jack promised Andy Roxburgh a bottle of champagne but it was whistling past the graveyard time.

The following day, Scotland won 1-0 in Bulgaria.

Steven Reid

A very impressive Irish performer off the bench in 2002, Reid regarded his chances of making the squad as very slight beforehand.

Like Tony Grealish, he was born in England but always passionate about being Irish. Liam George, while castigating the FAI's pursuit of Mark Noble and Clint Hill, informed us, by way of contrast, that Reid had gone out of his way to contact the FAI to let them know of his eligibility.

Reid played two games in Japan, almost pinging in a free-kick against Cameroon in the opener.

Read more: Poll: Who Is Ireland's Greatest Ever Tournament Player?



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