Ireland at the World Cup
Ireland has a rich history when it comes to performing at the FIFA World Cup. Each and every time the country has qualified, we have managed to escape from our group and reach the knockout stages of the competition. We may not have qualified for this year’s tournament but we still have plenty of moments to be proud of from years gone by.
Check out our guide to the Irish National Team at the FIFA World Cup;
The heroes of the Irish team done the country proud by reaching the quarter finals in the country’s first ever world cup, only being beaten by a single goal from striker Toto Schillachi from the host nation. Kevin Sheedy scored against rivals England in a particularly memorable moment in the opening game. During the second match, famous Irish pundit Eamon Dunphy was so frustrated at the quality of play that he proceeded to launch his pen across the television studio floor.
Pandemonium ensued in Dublin and around the country after David O’Leary, the Irish defender scored the winning penalty in the last 16 clash to beat Romania and put Ireland into an unprecedented quarter final. A huge crowd welcomed the team back to Dublin after the defeat at the hands of the Italians, eager to let the team know that they appreciated their tremendous efforts. Ireland wouldn’t have to wait too long to get some world cup revenge on Italy.
Coincidentally, Ireland’s first opponents in 1994 would be the Italians and although Ireland weren’t fancied at all, the match would prove to be the perfect opportunity for revenge. Resolute defending from the Irish coupled with a goal from Ray Houghton meant the team reversed the result from 1990. This victory was crucial! The team would qualify from the group in second place by virtue of the score line against the Italians after a defeat to a well-equipped Mexico side and a dreary scoreless draw against the Norwegians.
Unfortunately, there would be no repeat of the quarter final reaching heroics of four years previously. The team would crash out in the last 16 stage, going down 2-0 to The Netherlands after a pair of uncharacteristic defensive lapses. The team could still hold their heads high after the tournament and the Irish nation won’t ever forget Houghton’s goal in Giants Stadium, New Jersey. France 1998 would be the first world cup that featured no Irish team since Mexico 1986.
The Storm Before The Calm
Ahh Saipan, what would we have talked about in 2002 without ye? Before the most infamous disagreement in Irish soccer history, the national team led by Manchester United star Roy Keane, put in great performances to qualify for the tournament including dishing out a 1-0 defeat to 1994 foes, The Netherlands. This time, the world cup would be held in two countries – Japan and South Korea.
Pre-tournament vibes were not right from the start with many commenting that there was an uneasy atmosphere amongst the squad as they set out from Dublin. After taking time away from the squad to rehab an injury, star midfielder Keane was in a particularly unhappy mood after his time off was portrayed as disunity in the squad. Like a dormant volcano, the situation erupted following a tirade launched by Keane in the direction of manager Mick McCarthy. This would lead to Roy Keane’s removal from the training camp in Saipan. Despite pre-tournament disarray, the team would go on to perform admirably given the tough conditions.
Japan and South Korea 2002
After a decent draw against Cameroon, Ireland would go on to secure a famous draw against Germany via a last minute Robbie Keane goal sparking jubilant celebrations back in Dublin and the rest of Ireland. This result left Ireland knowing that a 2 goal win against the unheralded Saudi Arabia would see qualification to the last 16 become reality. For good measure the team put 3 past the Saudis with no reply setting up a clash against the Spanish. Despite being the better side, the game would go all the way with three Irish penalties being missed in a frustrating penalty shootout loss against Spain. 100,000 fans would be waiting to celebrate with the team in the Phoenix Park when they arrived home.
The stand-off between Roy Keane and Mick McCarthy divided the nation at the time. The media and the fans took different sides, even some households were divided over an incident which still sparks pub debates amongst fans today!
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