WORLD CUP '90 : Italian Defense Stifles Ireland : Quarterfinals: Schillaci scores the only goal as Zenga gets his fifth shutout in as many Cup matches.


The luck of the Irish ran out here Saturday on the rags-to-riches boot of a new-found Italian folk hero.

"Schillaci, Schillaci, eyes of blue, Mick McCarthy's after you," sang exuberant green-clad Irish fans in Olympic Stadium.

The Irish captain gave his all. But McCarthy had no better luck than any of Italy's other World Cup opponents in controlling striker Salvatore Schillaci.

The 26-year-old Sicilian scored to lead Italy to a 1-0 quarterfinal victory.

It could have been more: Another shot by Schillaci hit a post, and a third went in only to be annulled by a linesman who called Schillaci offsides. The television replay showed he wasn't.

The Irish, who traveled farther in their World Cup debut than even they imagined possible, went home proud through Roman streets awash with celebrating Italians.

"We have done as well as we were capable of doing. Maybe we put the Irish team on the map today in the eyes of the world," Coach Jack Charlton said.

The Italians go to Naples to play lackluster but lucky Argentina in a semifinal match Tuesday.

Ireland couldn't solve an Italian defense that remained unscored upon in five Cup matches. But Ireland was such an underdog that even defeat didn't spoil its national party.

About 10,000 Irish fans painted Rome green Saturday for what for many was the day of a lifetime. Flushed with pleasure and the Mediterranean sun, they roamed through the streets before the game, waving their green, white and orange flags and bantering good-naturedly with Italian passers-by.

More than a few of the celebrating Irish brought equally green wives and children for a spectacle that became, belatedly, the sort of high-spirited international fun that the World Cup was intended to foster.

Saturday afternoon, the Irish flooded St. Peter's for moments of reverence. Then they danced to fight songs--"Come On Boys in Green"--along the broad avenue leading to the basilica.

Refreshingly, there were no hooligans. But there was certainly a hero--a compact, never-still attacker who looks like a farmer and who, until a year ago, languished in the wilderness of the Italian second division in Messina, Sicily. Schillaci played in Messina because officials in Palermo didn't think he was good enough to play at home.

"Toto," as all Italy now calls Schillaci, made the difference in the 38th minute.

Midfielder Roberto Donadoni shot powerfully from about 45 feet out. Irish keeper Patrick Bonner stopped it with difficulty, but could not control the ball.

That was all Schillaci needed. As they now say in his native Palermo, God forgives, Schillaci does not.

Sweeping in from the left, Schillaci pounced on the rebound and rocketed it past the defenseless Bonner for his fourth goal in a tournament he began as an obscure substitute.

The Irish more than held their own in the first half before Schillaci's goal. Particularly strong in the air, the white-shirted visitors played a fast tempo and showed more offense than had been expected.

The Italian defense, led by Franchino Baresi and Paolo Maldini, headed out a cross by Niall Quinn in the 11th minute, and Italian keeper Walter Zenga barely contained a header by Quinn on a cross from Paul McGrath at the 25th.

Italy seemed disconcerted by Ireland's air game at first, its timing off and its passes uncharacteristically going astray.

However, the Italian pressure increased as the half progressed. One cross was tantalizingly too high for Italian captain Giuseppe Bergomi, and in the 34th minute an apparent goal by Roberto Baggio was annulled as offsides.

The second half belonged to Italy. In the seventh minute, Schillaci hit the top post with a hard shot that ricocheted straight down, apparently bouncing back onto the field without crossing the goal line.

With a minute to play, Schillaci broke away from the pack at midfield and beat Bonner cleanly in a one-on-one. The linesman called him offside, but the replay clearly showed he wasn't.

Italian Coach Azeglio Vicini, who had nothing but praise for the Irish, untypically lost his cool, chiding the linesman after the game.

"A mistake like that in a championship game is not acceptable," Vicini said.

Trailing, the taller Irish created several second-half chances with cross-header combinations in front of the goal. The Italians, whose wealth includes some of the world's best defenders, bent, but never broke.

Several times, Zenga, closing in on an international shutout record, sallied to break up dangerous chances, but his fullbacks actually did most of the damage.

Under Charlton, an Englishman who has become "St. Jack" to an adoring Emerald Isle, Ireland came into the game having played 17 consecutive international games without a defeat. The record spoke more of the Irish defense than its attack: Many were ties.

Ireland, essentially an English first-division team, walked into a pillbox when it set foot in roaring Olympic Stadium. It was Italy's 14th World Cup appearance in Rome, where it has never lost, outscoring opponents, 36-4.

West Germany will play Czechoslovakia today, and England will play Cameroon to decide the other semifinal berth. The Cup final will be played here next Sunday. The Irish will not be surprised if one of the finalists is Italy.

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