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Hanover 1994: the day Ireland went to Germany and won

Goals from Tony Cascarino and Gary Kelly gave Jack Charlton’s side a memorable victory ahead of the World Cup.

Paul McGrath battles Matthias Sammer on what proved a glorious day for the Republic of Ireland.
Paul McGrath battles Matthias Sammer on what proved a glorious day for the Republic of Ireland.

THE REPUBLIC OF IRELAND were in good shape heading into the USA ’94 World Cup. Their final friendly before leaving for America at the start of June was a disappointing 1-3 defeat at home to Czech Republic but the hard work had already been done.

In April, they had gone to Tilburg in Holland and narrowly beaten Dick Advocaat’s side thanks to a winner from Tommy Coyne. But the following month, they went one better.

Germany were the reigning world champions and had surprisingly missed out on back-to-back international successes by suffering a shock defeat to Denmark in the final of Euro 1992.

Because of their success at Italia ’90, they qualified automatically for the 1994 tournament and had gone two years without a competitive game. Still, their selection of friendly matches ensured they were playing elite opposition consistently. Between June ’93 and March ’94, they played Brazil twice, Italy, England and Argentina, losing just once. They hadn’t lost on home soil in six years.

Having been drawn in Group C of the World Cup, Germany faced games against Spain, South Korea and Bolivia. With the Republic of Ireland having faced the Iberians twice in qualifying, Jack Charlton’s made a suitable friendly opponent and on 29th May 1994, the teams met in Hanover.

Source: sp1873/YouTube

At the time, Charlton was fine-tuning his World Cup squad. Three youngters – Gary Kelly, Phil Babb and Jason McAteer had all recently made their international debuts and were desperate to impress once again. Babb, then at Coventry, was handed a start against the Germans and played alongside Paul McGrath for the first time. McAteer was also selected in his usual wide-right role though Kelly, despite an immense season at Leeds, had to make do with a place on the bench. Elsewhere, Tony Cascarino led the line on his own with Charlton selecting a five-man midfield with John Sheridan given licence to get forward.

For Germany, Vogts had an interesting mix though it was a deeply experienced side. The youngest player in the match-day squad was 25 year-old replacement goalkeeper Oliver Kahn while figures like Lothar Matthaus and Rudi Voller were 33 and 34 respectively. Still, Jurgen Klinsmann was one of the most-feared strikers in Europe and had pushed Monaco to within 90 minutes of that season’s Champions League final. At the back, Jurgen Kohler was a UEFA Cup winner with Juventus (soon-to-be league and cup winner too) while he’d go on to taste Champions League success with Borussia Dortmund in 1997.  Andy Moeller would do likewise. Karl-Heinz Riedle too (and score twice in the final). While Mattias Sammer would captain Dortmund to that victory and skipper Germany to Euro ’96 glory in London beforehand.

IrelandFans Irish fans make their voices heard in Hanover, May 29th 1994. Source: ©Lorraine O'Sullivan/INPHO

The hosts began brightly with Werder Bremen’s Mario Basler combing well with Klinsmann on the edge of the area but his well-struck shot towards the near post was pushed to safety by Alan Kelly in what was only his third international appearance. Steve Staunton very nearly conjured a superb opener after being played in by Andy Townsend – he neatly cut inside Matthaus and unleashed a swerving left-footed strike that narrowly whistled past the far post.

On the half hour, there was a breakthrough for the guests. After a cheap giveaway by Sammer, Sheridan slipped the ball wide for McAteer who evaded Sammer’s attempts to win possession back. He curled in a decent cross, Struntz could only divert it towards the far upright and Cascarino stooped to head past Bodo Illgner.  But before the break, the Germans rallied and went close on two separate occasions. Firstly, Buchwald saw his speculative effort come back off the woodwork before Struntz saw his brilliant strike tipped onto the underside of the bar by Kelly.

Denis Irwin and Martin Wagner Denis Irwin and Martin Wagner battle for possession. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

After the restart, Klinsmann went close after racing onto a through-ball from Sammer. Kelly smothered at the edge of the box, deflected off McGrath and rolled just wide. It was a siege on the Irish goal and Kelly was fortunate when he got caught under a cross from the right side but Riedle just failed to get a touch. Klinsmann had another chance later in the half when Martin Wagner picked him out with a terrific cross – the striker hitting his volley into the turf and it bounced over Kelly’s crossbar.

Then, with 20 minutes left, a stroke of good fortune for the Irish. Gary Kelly, who had replaced Irwin at the break, had broken up-field after some good, crisp passing and stayed forward. He picked up a loose German pass and cut inside onto his left-foot. From the edge of the area, he looked to curl a shot towards goal. It took a huge deflection off the out-stretched boot of Wagner, completely wrong-footed Illgner and bounced inside the far post.

Gary Kelly Republic of Ireland V Germany 29/5/1994 Gary Kelly celebrates after scoring Ireland's second goal. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Vogts instantly looked for reinforcements and brought on Voller for Riedle and the veteran really should’ve scored with a close-range header. Sammer also had a decent opportunity but dragged a shot wide of the near post with only Kelly to beat.

Ireland held on to claim the victory but afterwards Charlton spoke of how Ireland had rode their luck somewhat.

I think we were a bit lucky today actually. The goal came at a nice time and our goalkeeper made some terrific saves on balls that might’ve gone in. They missed a few chances but that’s football. We never let anyone have any time to do anything. We keep people on top of them as much as we can and it tends to work. People find it very difficult to play against. I’m delighted we beat Germany. It’s a great boost for a small country like Ireland to do something like that. Maybe other people are going to look at it and say ‘Maybe we’ll take the Irish a bit more seriously now’. We’ve been telling them to do that for a long time. We enjoyed the game, we enjoyed the win. We won’t make too much out of it but it pleases the people back home and that’s important.”

Much was made of how the result had only been a minor blip for the Germans, that things would get back to normal in the US and that they remained one of the favourites to win the World Cup outright. But despite two more friendly victories before the tournament began, it was clear that all was not well in the camp.

Midfielder Stefan Effenberg was sent home after insulting German supporters during the second-half of a nervy 3-2 group-stage win over South Korea. After a series of limp and unimpressive performances, their journey came to an end at the quarter-final stage after a 2-1 loss to Bulgaria.

They had been antagonised by hard-working, hungry sides who afforded them little time on the ball and were economic with the chances that fell their way.

If Ireland are to get anything from tomorrow night’s assignment, they’ll need to follow a similar strategy.

A version of this piece was originally published on 14 October, 2014

‘We used to be the hunters, now we’re the prey’ – Germany boss Löw

‘It’s a good time for Ireland to play Germany’ – Didi Hamann

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About the author:

Eoin O'Callaghan

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