Profiles - World Cup Teams - Republic of Ireland
Ireland Ireland will not feature among the favourites to lift the 2002 World Cup but the fighting qualities they displayed in the qualifying campaign make them a side no one will relish facing.

Unbeaten away from home since September 1999 until Iran scored an academic last-minute winner against them in the second leg of their playoff in November 2001, Ireland boast few household names in their line-up but play with an intensity which makes them desperately hard to defeat.

Their qualifying campaign climaxed against the Netherlands at Lansdowne Road in September, when a 1-0 victory secured their passage to the play-offs and dumped the Dutch out of the tournament.

The win was achieved with 10 men after Gary Kelly was dismissed early in the second half, while the winning goal was supplied by Jason McAteer, a player unable to command a regular starting place at modest English premier league side Blackburn before a £1million move to Sunderland.

The backs-to-the-wall nature of the win summed up the way Ireland battled their way through one for the European zone's toughest qualifying groups.

With only one truly world class player in Roy Keane, Ireland were given little chance of progressing from a group containing the richly talented Dutch and Portuguese.

But the Irish delight in defying the odds and an opening 2-2 draw in Rotterdam was followed with a 1-1 stalemate in Lisbon.

Another 1-1 draw in the return fixture against Portugal left Ireland needing just a draw against the Netherlands to guarantee a playoff spot.

In the event they went one better, beating the Dutch in front of a passionate Lansdowne Road crowd in a game widely hailed as their best performance since the 1-0 win over eventual runners-up Italy in the group stages of the 1994 World Cup.

Ireland have now qualified for the final stages of the World Cup three times following their appearances in Italy in 1990 when they reached the last eight, and four years later in the United States.

Both campaigns were led by McCarthy's predecessor Jack Charlton, who secured hero-status in the republic after guiding them to the finals of the European Championships in 1988, the first time they had qualified for a major tournament.

Charlton stepped down after Ireland failed to reach the Euro 96 finals in his native England, beaten 2-0 in a play-off at Liverpool's Anfield stadium by the Netherlands in December 1995.

McCarthy's first two qualification campaigns ended in narrow failure, first in missing the 1998 World Cup finals in France after being beaten 3-2 on aggregate in a play-off by Belgium.

In October 1999 an injury time equaliser by Macedonia prevented them finishing top of their qualifying group for Euro 2000. The play-offs saw them eliminated on the away goals rule by Turkey.

The side which has qualified for the 2002 finals contains a few stalwarts from the Charlton era, but the bulk of the team are now players who have come through under McCarthy.

In attack Leeds United's Robbie Keane has emerged as the leading striker, lifting the burden from 35-year-old Niall Quinn, who became Ireland's top marksman when he scored his 21st international goal against Cyprus in October.

Mark Kinsella of Charlton and Ipswich Town's Matt Holland have established themselves in midfield alongside Keane. Shay Given has made the goalkeeping jersey his own, conceding a miserly five goals in the group stage of the qualifying round.

Ireland and their fans celebrated in some style after beating Iran 2-1 on aggregate in their qualifying play-off in mid-November.

And there is no doubt they will enliven the World Cup party atmosphere in June. homepage