SportSoccer

Greatest Ireland memories: Robbie Keane's last-minute World Cup heroics

SoccerBy John Brennan
Robbie Keane scores the famous last minute equaliser past Germany keeper Oliver Kahn
Robbie Keane scores the famous last minute equaliser past Germany keeper Oliver Kahn

TODAY, the Sunday World begins a stroll down Irish football's memory lane, remembering 16 great days for the men in green shirts over the years.

We present these memories in no order of time nor of importance; we will let you make up your mind on which is best.

Of course you will be able to pick out days like Stuttgart or Giants Stadium, but why don’t you have a go now and see if you can pick all 16.

We give you a free one today, the 92nd minute in Ibaraki during the 2002 World Cup when the nation rose as one to acclaim Robbie Keane and his late, late show against Germany.

Of course, that World Cup will be remembered as much for what happened before it than during the tournament. But we have chosen only good days for Irish football, so this'll be the only mention of Saipan in our reveries.

There the squad lost one of the best players in the world at the time in Roy Keane but when the team finally got around to playing matches they started the competition well with a 1-1 draw against Cameroon, courtesy of a Matty Holland second-half strike.

But only two went through from the group at that competition, so it was vital that Ireland got something from the second match against Germany. Otherwise, the Germans and Cameroon only needed a draw in the final match for both teams to go through.

It didn't look good in the early stages when Mirsolav Klose got across Gary Breen to score at the near post for the Germans.

It was one of the first goals Klose scored on the way to becoming the all-time World Cup top scorer.

Ireland pressed and pressed but never threatened to get back into the match until manager Mick McCarthy took off full-back Ian Harte and sent on target man Niall Quinn.

Kevin Kilbane replaced Harte at full-back, Damien Duff went out to his best position on the left wing and Quinn went up alongside Robbie Keane for a final bombardment, roared on by most of the 35,854 attendance.

The game was moving to a close when Mark Kinsella found Quinn's forehead with a ball from inside the Irish half.

The flick was straight to Keane's feet and he deftly finished beyond Oliver Kahn.

It was the only goal the great Kahn would concede on the way to the World Cup final that year and Keane's magnificent finish was the cue for pandemonium at home.

Because of the time difference between Ireland and Japan, the game was a 12.30pm kick-off in Ireland and the pubs were full of workers on long lunches with the unspoken agreement of their employers.

Mind you, few enough went back for that Wednesday afternoon as it was now 2.22pm and Ireland had just pulled off one of their greatest football escapes.

Not for the first time, nor the last, there were glasses raised in honour of Robbie Keane that day.

IRELAND: Given; Finnan, Breen, Staunton, Harte; G. Kelly, Kinsella, Holland, Kilbane; Keane, Duff.

Subs: Quinn and Reid for Harte and G. Kelly 73mins, Cunningham for Staunton 87mins.