"Never back against the Irish" - How the BBC covered our USA 94 win over Italy 3 months ago

"Never back against the Irish" - How the BBC covered our USA 94 win over Italy

June 18th 1994 at Giants Stadium, Ireland produced the first huge shock of the World Cup by defeating a strong Italian side.

Jack Charlton's side stunned and Italian team that contained the likes of Paolo Maldini, Roberto Baggio, Giuseppe Signori, Roberto Donadoni and Franco Baresi.

The performances of Paul McGrath and Phil Babb, in the centre of defence, were exemplary while the centre midfield trio of Andy Townsend, Roy Keane and John Sheridan were tigerish.

It was Ray Houghton, though, that took the plaudits and grabbed the headlines. The Aston Villa midfielder had famously broken English hearts at Euro 88 with a looping header and he definitely gave his effort on goal some air:

For the remaining 79 minutes, Ireland took the best Italy could throw at them. McGrath and Babb were defensive rocks, Tommy Coyne ran himself into the ground, up front, and Sheridan pinged the crossbar with a shot that could have settled it.

Ireland went on to win 1-0 and would reach the knock-out stages before The Netherlands sent them packing. Italy recovered to make it to the final, where they lost on penalties to Brazil.

The reaction to the Irish win on the BBC, that night, was glowing. Senior pundit Alan Hansen - ex Liverpool and Scotland - lauded two players in particular. He commented:

"Never back against the Irish - that's what I've learned today. Fantastic performance.

"I've been in dressing rooms many times, when the manager has come in and said, 'Give me 100% effort, attitude and commitment, and that's all I ask'. The Irish gave 130% tonight, in all these attributes.

"They were fantastic. Eight of these players, tonight, played as well as they could have possibly done. They hustled and they harried. They never gave Italy time or space and they never looked under any sort of threat at all.

"Italy had one little spell in the second half when they got on top but Babb and McGrath were outstanding. They were terrific."

Former Manchester United and England winger Steve Coppell chimed in with praise too and remarked that the matchwinner was a 'typically Irish goal, with the ball played up to the lone striker'.

That report also covers the O.J Simpson car chase, which also occurred under an intense media glare on the same day.

For all the talk of McGrath and Babb, the pundits noted that Sheridan, Townsend and Houghton all had decent chances to make the game safe at 2-0.

As Charlton himself told the BBC, "There'll be parties going on all over the world tonight."