UEFA Qualifying Group 6


Major changes for Spain (1st seeds) after their early exit in the 1988 Euros, with a new manager in place and several veterans retiring from the team. A new team was emerging led by the generation of Míchel and Butragueño, and were expected to defend the team’s favourite tag in the group. The Republic of Ireland (4th) had also been eliminated from the group stage in the 1988 Euros, but had given an impressive display and Jackie Charlton’s team generally were in the ascendancy. Football aristocrats Hungary (2nd) would probably be their toughest rival in the group, but had seen a small decline in their performances over the last couple of years. Northern Ireland (3rd) could perhaps surprise everyone (again!) and qualify for the World Cup a third time in a row, but it felt like they were going through a rebuilding that wasn’t the finished article yet. Only Malta (5th) were not fancied by anyone at all to challenge for a place in Italia’90. Read more . . .


Match 1: Northern Ireland 3-0 Malta
21 May 1988, Windsor Park (Belfast)
NIR escape early scare from lively Busuttil, then score three before h-t.

Match 2: Northern Ireland 0-0 Republic of Ireland
14 September 1988, Windsor Park (Belfast)
Stalemate at Windsor Park, but the guests look the stronger side.

Match 3: Hungary 1-0 Northern Ireland
19 October 1988, Népstadion (Budapest)
NIR withstand pressure for 85 mins, before Vincze breaks the deadlock for Hungary.

Match 4: Spain 2-0 Republic of Ireland
16 November 1988, Benito Villamarín (Seville)
Fast and furious in Seville as Spain hit the Irish for two second half goals.

Match 5: Malta 2-2 Hungary
11 December 1988, Ta’Qali (Attard)
Busuttil strikes twice as depleted Hungary are held in Valletta.

Match 6: Spain 4-0 Northern Ireland
21 December 1988, Estadio Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán (Seville)
Northern Ireland hold out for 30 minutes but fall apart following three strikes in quick succession after the break.

Match 7: Malta 0-2 Spain
22 January 1989, Ta’ Qali (Attard)
Without ever reaching their pinnacle, Spain without too much bother see off spirited Malta.

Match 8: Northern Ireland 0-2 Spain
8 February 1989, Windsor Park (Belfast)
Cautious approach and corners give Spain the win.

Match 9: Hungary 0-0 Republic of Ireland
8 March 1989, Népstadion (Budapest)
Lacklustre performance by a reshaping Hungary, the Irish not much better.

Match 10: Spain 4-0 Malta
23 March 1989, Estadio Benito Villamarín (Seville)
Spain easily deal with ten man Malta, who were all set about damage limitation in the second half after being reduced to ten men on the stroke of half time.

Match 11: Hungary 1-1 Malta
12 April 1989, Népstadion (Budapest)
Malta left with a very well deserved point, and could have punished the Hungarians on the break even further.

Match 12: Malta 0-2 Northern Ireland
26 April 1989, Ta’ Qali (Attard)
Professional job by the Ulstermen.

Match 13: Republic of Ireland 1-0 Spain
26 April 1989, Lansdowne Road (Dublin)
Brilliant battling display secure Rep. of Ireland their first win.

Match 14: Republic of Ireland 2-0 Malta
28 May 1989, Lansdowne Road (Dublin)
A less enthusiastic Ireland still deal comfortably with negative Malta.

Match 15: Republic of Ireland 2-0 Hungary
4 June 1989, Lansdowne Road (Dublin)
Win gives the Republic of Ireland a great advantage over Hungary in the hunt for second place.

Match 16: Northern Ireland 1-2 Hungary
6 September 1989, Windsor Park (Belfast)
The Ulstermen show real commitment, but Hungary win by individual brilliance.

Match 17: Republic of Ireland 3-0 Northern Ireland
11 October 1989. Lansdowne Road (Dublin)
Big win all but sees the Republic through to Italy.

Match 18: Hungary 2-2 Spain
11 October 1989. Népstadion (Budapest)
Hungary draw with all-out attack, as Spain qualify for Italia’90.

Match 19: Spain 4-0 Hungary
15 November 1989. Estadio Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán (Seville)
Another comfortable home win to round up Spain’s campaign.

Match 20: Malta 0-2 Republic of Ireland
15 November 1989. Ta’ Qali (Attard)
The Irish dominant from start to finish.

Final table

2Rep. of Ireland852110212
4N. Ireland82156125


Spain had been the bookies’ favourites to win the group, and fulfilled expectations. They won their first five matches, by which time they already looked destined to qualify for Italia’90. They were outfought in Dublin, but did in reality have little trouble to keep off Hungary in the two deciders that were lined up for them.

The Republic of Ireland ousted World Cup regulars Hungary and N. Ireland to qualify for their first ever tournament. They were slow starters, but hit back with one of the performances of the group when they beat Spain in Dublin 1-0. Essential home wins against Hungary and N. Ireland followed, although they weren’t as dominant in these matches as one might suspect.

Hungary endured a torrid qualification campaign, where the calamities started with the draw in Malta, as Mezey found many of his best players suspended by the authorities because of an ongoing investigation. His replacement Bicskei did never really find a good shape for the team, nor the right players. An uninspiring win in Belfast set them on track for two possible late deciders against Spain, but even though they managed a draw in Budapest, they were outclassed in Seville. Star players like Détári and Kiprich never performed consistently and the team just didn’t look ready for a World Cup this time around.

As for Northern Ireland, they would have wanted a stronger campaign. Having got off to a fine opening win against Malta, their undoing was the lack of goals. Whiteside’s consolation strike against Hungary at home was their sole goal in six against the three teams which finished above them. The home draw against neighbours Republic of Ireland was probably the pick of their results. The Ulstermen will as a result be missing out on their first World Cup since ’78.

Malta probably exceeded expectations by taking two points in draws against once mighty Hungary. They also managed to show along the way that they are no longer the push overs that they used to be, and a lot of credit should go to the West German coach. Some of their players had seen good progress during the campaign, and with a relatively young average age, they could be looking to improve further next time around.


Total number of players used: 129
Total number of players including unused substitutes: 166
Ever-presents (720 mins): 6 (Zubizarreta, Jiménez, (Péter) Disztl, Galea, Buttigieg, Busuttil)
Leading goalscorer: Míchel and Manolo (both Spain) 5
Yellow/red cards: 40/2

Goalscorers (47)

5 goals
Manolo (Spain)
Míchel (Spain)

3 goals
Carmel Busuttil (Malta)
Emilio Butragueño (Spain)

2 goals
Attila Pintér (Hungary)
István Vincze (Hungary)
Colin Clarke (Northern Ireland)
John Aldridge (Rep of Ireland)
Tony Cascarino (Rep of Ireland)
Ray Houghton (Rep of Ireland)

1 goal
Imre Boda (Hungary)
György Bognár (Hungary)
József Kiprich (Hungary)
Kálmán Kovács (Hungary)
Michael O’Neill (Northern Ireland)
Steve Penney (Northern Ireland)
Jimmy Quinn (Northern Ireland)
Norman Whiteside (Northern Ireland)
Paul McGrath (Rep of Ireland)
Kevin Moran (Rep of Ireland)
Ronnie Whelan (Rep of Ireland)
Genar Andrinúa (Spain)
Txiki Begiristain (Spain)
Fernando (Spain)
Juanito (Spain)
Julio Salinas (Spain)
Roberto (Spain) ¹

¹ Roberto’s goal is often refered to as an own goal by Northern Ireland’s Alan McDonald

2 own goals
Anton Rogan (Northern Ireland) v Spain
Míchel (Spain) v Rep of Ireland

Top 20 ratings list

1 Ray Houghton (Rep of Ireland) 7,30 (8 apps)
2 Míchel (Spain) 7,26 (8 apps)
3 Ronnie Whelan (Rep of Ireland) 7,25 (6 apps)
4 Rafael Martín Vázquez (Spain) 7,11 (7 apps)
5 Manolo (Spain) 7,10 (7 apps)
6 Genar Andrinúa (Spain) 7,10 (6 apps)
7 Tony Cascarino (Rep of Ireland) 7,08 (8 apps)
8 Paul McGrath (Rep of Ireland) 7,08 (6 apps)
9 Mick McCarthy (Rep of Ireland) 7,02 (5 apps)
10 Emilio Butragueño (Spain) 6,94 (7 apps)
11 Chris Morris (Rep of Ireland) 6,92 (5 apps)
12 Alberto Górriz (Spain) 6,92 (4 apps)
13 József Kiprich (Hungary) 6,90 (4 apps)
14 Mal Donaghy (Northern Ireland) 6,87 (7 apps)
15 Quique Flores (Spain) 6,86 (5 apps)
16 Manuel Sanchís (Spain) 6,85 (7 apps)
17 Allen McKnight (Northern Ireland) 6,84 (5 apps)
18 Manuel Jiménez (Spain) 6,83 (8 apps)
19 Nigel Worthington (Northern Ireland) and Roberto (Spain) 6,82 (7 apps)

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This Post Has One Comment

  1. harpul

    Fantastic post!

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