In a World Cup group destined to end up as a statistical curiosity, (the natural raw material for panel shows and pub quizzes), the chaotic appeal of football shines through. Ray Houghton’s goal for Ireland against Italy in USA’94 was a thing of beauty.
The Ireland side Jack Charlton took to the U.S. was a hell of a group; with Spice Boy Phil Babb playing alongside grizzled old warhorse Paul McGrath, it seems to bridge the pre and post English Premier League eras. They landed in a group consisting of themselves, Norway, Mexico and Italy with the Italians being the clear favourites.
Italy, captained by the current Ballon d'Or holder, Roberto Baggio, would go on to contest the final with Brazil but they had a faltering start and came up against a confident Ireland who had filled the stadium with tourists, expats and partial locals. The group would end with all four sides on the same points and with the same goal difference. Despite this, Ireland made it through to the next round before being knocked out by the Netherlands.
Standby for the biggest on-screen advertising logo I have ever seen the commentator calling Ireland, England. Riots have started for less but this was all part of the strange buzz of an American World Cup.
Midfield General (ret.)