ROME, JUNE 30 -- One could have sat back in Washington or Las Vegas or any town in Italy -- anywhere except Ireland or where Irish assembled tonight -- and safely predicted Italy's fifth straight victory in the World Cup finals.

But tonight's 1-0 win at Olympic Stadium offered a great spectacle of fun-loving fans, verified Italy's perfect right to advance to the semifinals and proved Ireland to be, as Italian Coach Azeglio Vicini said, "a team you can't beat in terms of spirit."

Who else got the only goal but the unstoppable Salvatore Schillaci, the most-talked-about man in Italy? He put in a rebound with a swift kick of his right foot -- which means he now has scored once with each foot and twice with his head.

Italy moves on to a meeting Tuesday night against Argentina, which also advanced today on a 3-2 shootout victory over Yugoslavia. Italy-Argentina will be played in Naples, the home field of Argentina's Diego Maradona when he plays in the Italian league for Napoli.

Would the Neapolitans be rooting for "Azzuri" or Argentina? Vicini was asked. "They will be cheering for the Italian side as they have always done in the World Cup," he replied. "I have no doubts about it."

The Irish will be heading home Sunday. "I would like to thank everyone in Italy for the experience," Jack Charlton, the losing coach, said. "My lads have done as well as they were capable of doing.

"We're sad to be going home. But we're proud, and I think the Irish people at home are proud.

"Maybe we put the Irish team on the map a little bit."

The Irish played their normal long ball, lobbing it deep and chasing. They managed a few good scoring threats, but hardly enough. They had only five shots on goal. With that kind of production, Italy's goalkeeper, Walter Zenga, was able to carry his team to a record for keeping the opposition scoreless.

No one has scored on the Italians in the World Cup finals for 483 minutes, since they were beaten by France in Mexico City in 1986. That breaks a West German record of 475 minutes set during the 1974 and 1978 finals.

"I'm very happy that we're among the top four teams in the world, and I would be a liar if I wouldn't say I'm happy I haven't been scored on yet," Zenga said. "But if I had to trade off between letting in a goal and playing in the final, I'd gladly let in a goal."

Zenga is within 48 minutes of the World Cup record of 498 scoreless minutes held by Peter Shilton of England.

Ireland's strength tonight was in cutting off Schillaci's "supply" of setup passes, Charlton said. But the breakthrough came in the 38th minute. Giuseppe Giannini, 35 yards out in the middle of the field, passed to his left to Roberto Donadoni -- in Charlton's thinking, Italy's most important player tonight because of the offensive pressure he applied relentlessly.

Donadoni shot from 15 yards on the left. It was a hard, high shot that Irish goalkeeper Paddy Bonner had to leap to his right to block. The ball was too high for him to control. All he could do was bat it back -- and it went back to the lingering Schillaci.

A mighty roar went up from the majority of the 73,303 in anticipation of the next instant, when the Sicilian Schillaci put the ball easily toward his right and into the net.

"I'm happy and satisfied and I hope to continue this ride," Schillaci said.

"His goals are beautiful goals," Vicini said. "His performance as a whole, his consistency, is something to be admired, believe me."

Schillaci almost had two second-half goals. He hit the crossbar with one shot. Later, he was ruled offside on a breakaway when Vicini and most observers believed the play to be onside.

Ireland's defeat was the culmination of a remarkable effort in making something of little. The Irish did not bow out until the quarterfinals, even though they scored only two goals in five final games.

"They honored their record with their play tonight," Vicini said. "But we merited the victory."

The Irish bid brought their fans here by the thousands. Hundreds had been camped around the stadium for two days, hoping to find tickets. Almost 15,000 finally got them as the World Cup organizing committee scrambled to recover unused tickets by various corporations.

The Irish made for colorful sights in the stadium. Seated mostly at each end of the stadium, they showed off one rooting routine in which thousands jumped straight up and down as if they were puppets being manipulated in harmony.

Italian and Irish fans mixed easily near the stadium entrances. The happy mood was typified by a Schillaci fan -- looking just like Schillaci with a blue No. 19 shirt, white shorts and short, dark haircut -- skimming around the throng near the main gate on roller skates.

"It was an extremely strenuous match," Vicini said. "We have just two days to recover. But with the goal at hand, there should be a great deal of will to recover."

"Argentina will be another battle because they demonstrate both technical and physical qualities," Donadoni said. "And they have {Diego} Maradona."

"Argentina was all heart today," Maradona said. "To beat Argentina, they will have to rip the cup out of our hearts."

Charlton, who squeezed a tweed cap during the game, was relaxed afterward, and said he was off "to join the lads in a couple of pints and a singsong."