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The Pre-World Cup Friendlies In Which Ireland Sent The World A Warning

By Conor Neville
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It's hard to isolate a peak moment from the Charlton era, a time when the team were at their absolute best. The remarkable thing about the Charlton period was how consistent and steady the team was between the years 1987-1994.

Ireland arrived as a 'footballing power' in 1987, when they won eight matches in a row, and qualified for their first major tournament.

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They promptly plateaued for the next seven years, not getting any better, but hardly getting any worse either.

Many argue they were never better than they were around Euro '88 time, when they were ten minutes away from bundling Holland out of the tournament and reaching the semi-finals.

The world rankings are no guide at all.

Ireland reached their all-time high of 6th place in the world in the summer of '93, having humiliated the North in Dublin that March and then disposed of Latvia and Lithuania in June.


However, these were the inaugural world rankings. FIFA had never been so pedantic as to institute them before then, so we have no sense of where the boys of Italia 90 would have sat.

But in terms of our standing in international football, the first half of 1994 is hard to rival.

We had been knocking about the big time for over half a decade by that stage. We had a team of geriatrics but they were defying their age profile. We had built a reputation as a team capable of drawing with the best in the world.


Anyone who began following football in the early part of 1994 would have got a very distorted impression of what it was like to support the Irish football team.

Between April and June 1994, Ireland beat Holland 1-0 away from home, beat world champions Germany 2-0 away from home, and then beat World Cup 2nd favourites Italy 1-0 in the Giants Stadium.


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In between, Ireland managed a comparatively humdrum 1-0 win over Bolivia, in a match notable for being the first Lansdowne Road soccer international played under floodlights. John Sheridan sent a shot whizzing into the corner from thirty yards.

There is the minor disruption to the glorious narrative. Ireland lost 3-1 at home to the newly established Czech Republic football team on the eve of heading out to the US. It was only our opponents fourth match since the Czechs and the Slovaks detached from one another.

Ireland won 1-0 in Tilburg thanks to a second half goal from Tommy Coyne. The Dutch had made heavy weather of qualifying but got their heads straight in time to lose Graham Taylor his job in Rotterdam the previous October. Par for the course, Gullit was bellyaching about not playing due to issues with manager Dick Advocaat. There was talk of Johan Cryuff being parachuted in but an agreement couldn't be reached and Advocaat stayed on. Gullit stayed out.


Even more impressively, Ireland beat the Germans 2-0 in Hannover at the end of May. It was the first time they had lost at home in six years.

Four years earlier, as he cradled the World Cup in his hands, Franz Beckenbauer went all uber-mensch and said that a 'United Germany will be unbeatable. I feel sorry for the rest of the world.'

As Charlton said afterwards, 'No one beats the Germans in Germany'.


It wasn't a team of second stringers either. They had Klinnsmann and Karl Heinz Reidle up front, the strutting Andreas Moller in midfield, and Kohler, Buchwald and Strunz in defence. Euro 96 player of the tournament Matthias Sammer was in the sweeper role.

Marseilles bound Tony Cascarino nodded home the opener and then the Louth member of the Three Amigos scored a second-half goal with the aid of a massive deflection off Thomas Helveg.

Journalists wrote that this result 'echoed around the world'. Ireland had beaten two heavyweights of European football in their own back garden.


The following month in the Giants Stadium, they would beat another. There was even giddy talk of Ireland being installed as the tournament's second favourites.

Following that momentous result, combined with the performances in the spring, there was even giddy talk of Ireland being installed as the tournament's second favourites.


Read more: Gary Doherty Knows Nothing About Richie Sadlier's Infamous Masturbation Story

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