England were favourites against a Republic of Ireland side making a historic first appearance in major final tournaments. The absence of the injured Terry Butcher, however, put pressure on England's young central defenders, whose inexperience was exploited almost immediately.
Kevin Moran took a free-kick and hit it long, Ireland's main mode of attack. Mark Wright moved out to the right to cover, though contrived only to get in Gary Stevens' way. The ball fell to Tony Galvin, who hooked in a cross that Kenny Sansom inadvertently ballooned up in the air. John Aldridge headed it to Liverpool FC club-mate Ray Houghton, whose own header looped beyond Peter Shilton.
There were just six minutes on the clock and it took England until half-time to recover from the shock, Shilton having to dive at Houghton's feet when the busy little midfield player broke the offside trap. But the second half was one long England attack, producing enough chances to have won the match twice over.
Three times Gary Lineker was put clean through, to have one shot saved by Packie Bonner, clip the bar with the second and put the other just past the far post. It was not the end of Lineker's travails at the finals, with the FC Barcelona man failing to find the net in three attempts – it was later revealed he was suffering from a form of hepatitis.
Bonner, though, was the man who initially provided the main point of frustration for that talented England forward line by saving from John Barnes, Peter Beardsley, Lineker (three more times) and Bryan Robson. Jack Charlton, a member of England's 1966 FIFA World Cup-winning side, had revenge over his own country, who had turned him down as national coach back in 1977.
His charges were again impressive three days later, holding the USSR to a 1-1 draw, though a narrow defeat by the Netherlands brought an end to their campaign. They nevertheless departed with heads held high; England went away with tails between their legs after three losses from three. The FIFA World Cup two years later saw a marked improvement, however; for Ireland too.
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