38th Minute, Salvatore “Toto” Schillaci , Italy v Republic of Ireland
Expectations were high in Italy before the 1990 World Cup. They had the league with the best players, they had some of best stadiums in the world and a national team that looked capable of winning the World Cup for the fourth time.
There were solid in defence, even for an Italian side this was a very mean backline they wouldn’t concede a goal until the semi-final. Their midfield was strong in the tackle and creative going forward and a wealth of talent to choose from up front.
In their first game all this proved to be the case as they missed chance after chance against Austria in a game they dominated but surprisingly they couldn’t score. They found their answer when Salvatore Schillaci from Sicily entered the field of play with just sixteen minutes remaining. Schillaci had only been playing in the top flight for a few months before the World Cup but hit form at just the right time for Juventus to ensure his place in the squad despite never having scored an international goal. Within four minutes of his introduction Italy were ahead thanks to the head of the Sicilian.
Schillaci continued to score goals and was helped out by a young Roberto Baggio coming of age too. Neither found the net in Italy’s 1-0 win over USA but both players started and scored in the victory over Czechoslovakia meaning Italy went through to the second round with three wins out of three. Schillaci broke the deadlock again against Uruguay in the second round and Aldo Serena added another to make sure of Italy’s place in the quarter final.
In the quarter finals they faced the Republic of Ireland who had reached it that far by remarkably not winning any of their games. Three draws was enough to see them through in a tight group and then a penalty shoot-out win over Romania ensured this would be their greatest ever performance at the World Cup.
Although the gap in class was clear between Italy and the Irish, it was probably their hardest match on the way to the semi-finals as the Republic of Ireland defended heroically.
It took a mistake from goalkeeper Pat Bonner and a calm finish from Schillaci to make the difference between the two sides on this warm night in Rome…
What Happened Next?
Italy won 1-0 but suffered a heartbreaking semi-final loss on penalties to Argentina where Schillaci’s goal didn’t prove enough this time. They beat England to claim third place and Schillaci claimed the Golden Boot. Toto Schillaci was world famous on the back of these performances but would only ever score 1 more international goal as his reputation fell just as quickly as it rose.
Schillachi montage – BBC Grandstand 1990
Four guys would like to make a documentary on Toto…you can read and donate here…