On this day 26 years ago, Ray Houghton fired Ireland to World Cup victory over Italy

Thu, Jun 18 2020

Houghton replaces Ian Harte in a 2019 charity fundraiser in aid of the Sean Cox Foundation. Credit: Conor Ryan (ETPhotos)

On this day 26 years ago, the Republic of Ireland landed one of their most famous victories in tournament history as they beat twice-world champions Italy 1-0 at Giants Stadium, New Jersey.

Ray Houghton scored the only goal of the game after 11 minutes and Paul McGrath was imperious in defence amid a commanding performance from Jack Charlton’s team.

The Giants Stadium was a sea of green and blue as two of the east coast’s biggest immigrant communities converged for their opening game of the tournament.

Italy had been foiled the Boys in Green in their last World Cup tie as they ran out 1-0 winners in the quarter finals of Italia ’90 at the Stadio Olympico in Rome.

The tables were turned this time around as Ireland got off to the best possible start, with Houghton hitting the net early doors.

John Sheridan’s long punt forward was headed up in the air by Alessandro Costacurta and flicked on by Franco Baresi, but Houghton had read the trajectory in chested the loose ball down.

The space opened up for the Aston Villa midfielder and, with Gianluigi Pagliuca off his line, the veteran lofted a delicate shot over the head of the Italian keeper.

Ireland would have chances to add to their lead before the end, with Sheridan smashing a shot off the bar in the second half, but they weren’t to be denied the ideal start to the competition.