April 17, 2021, 4:23

Here’s how Ireland have fared in past play-offs

Here’s how Ireland have fared in past play-offs

By John Fallon

This is Ireland’s ninth time to be involved in a play-off for the right to participate at a major tournament.

Their opening pair of qualifiers, for the 1966 World Cup and 1998 European Championships, were one-off affairs with Spain and Holland prevailing.

Here, we look at the six other ties since, when home and away legs were contested.

WORLD CUP 1998 v BELGIUM: First leg score: Ireland 1 Belgium 1.

Ireland went to the Heysel Stadium hamstrung by Belgium’s away goal in Dublin that cancelled out an early Denis Irwin free-kick. At the end of Mick McCarthy’s first campaign at the helm, Luis Oliveria fired the Belgians ahead but the task didn’t change for Ireland as they still needed to score.

A dejected Steve Staunton leaves the pitch after the Republic of Ireland were knocked out of the World Cup 1998 Qualifier by Belgium. Pic: Sportsfile

Substitute Ray Houghton, on his last appearance for Ireland, headed them level approaching the hour mark but Luc Nilis, who had netted in Dublin, struck again within 10 minutes. McCarthy’s side couldn’t find another equaliser and the dismissal of David Connolly eight minutes from full-time didn’t help.

Second leg score: Belgium 2 Ireland 1 (Belgium won 3-2 on aggregate).

EURO 2000 v TURKEY: First leg score: Ireland 1 Turkey 1.

A similar story unravelled two years later but this loss was crueller as it was ultimately decided by a controversial penalty decision in the first leg.

All was going to plan when Robbie Keane’s clinical strike gave Ireland the upper hand with just 11 minutes left but when Lee Carsley fell and his hand struck the ball, the decision of Anders Fisk to award a penalty allowed substitute Tayfur Havutcu to convert.

Kevin Kilbane is led off the pitch with riot police at the end of the game against Turkey. Pic: Sportsfile

Dissent in the aftermath cost Keane a booking and his presence was missed in Bursa as the game finished in stalemate and the involvement of riot police. A string of saves from Dean Kiely kept Turkey at bay but Niall Quinn also missed a chance to nick it for Ireland.

Second leg score: Turkey 0 Ireland 0 (Turkey won on away goals).

WORLD CUP 2002 v IRAN: First leg score: Ireland 2 Iran 0.

Tehran provided one of the most hostile atmospheres Ireland have ever played in but the cushion of a 2-0 lead from the home leg saw them clinch a first World Cup qualification since 1994.

Iran were backed by 100,000 fans, most of them inside the stadium from four hours before kick-off, but Ireland managed to contain the hosts until stoppage-time when Yahya Golmohammadi pulled a goal back.

Kevin Kilbane, left, and Matt Holland celebrate with a glass of champagne on board their return flight to Dublin from Tehren, Iran, after qualifying for the 2002 World Cup Finals. Pic: Sportsfile

It afforded scant time for another goal and a minute later, Ireland’s players sunk to their knees relieved to have negotiated a tricky tie, both on and off the pitch. Roy Keane’s absence for the second leg would later dominate the row which led him to quit the squad in Saipan.

Second leg score: Iran 1 Ireland 0 (Ireland won 2-1).

WORLD CUP 2010 v FRANCE: First leg score: Ireland 0 France 1.

One of the most famous nights in Irish football saw the team take the game to France in search of a goal to cancel out Nicolas Anelka’s deflected goal in Dublin.

A wonderful flowing move in Paris involving Kevin Kilbane and Damien Duff set up Robbie Keane to bring them level by the break and extra-time was then required. Up popped Thierry Henry to handle the ball not once, but twice, inside the box and square for William Gallas to make it 2-1 on aggregate.

The infamous handball. Pic: Sportsfile

Shay Given and Damien Duff recently confirmed mutterings at the time that the senior players in the squad, rather than Giovanni Trapattoni, settled on the attacking approach.

Second leg score: France 1 Ireland 1 – after extra time (France won 2-1 on aggregate).

EURO 2012 v ESTONIA: First leg score: Estonia 0 Ireland 4.

FAI chief executive John Delaney couldn’t contain his glee at Zibi Boniek doing his former boss Trapattoni a favour by handing Ireland the plum draw of the playoffs.

Turkey and Bosnia-Herzegovina were avoided and Ireland made the most of their superiority by racking up a 4-0 lead in the first leg played in Tallinn.

Robbie Keane celebrates with Aiden McGeady after scoring Ireland’s third goal in the Euro 2012 qualifying play-off first leg in Tallinn. Pic: Sportsfile

It meant the return leg was a homecoming for the Irish and any fears of an unlikely comeback were quashed when Stephen Ward bagged another goal before the interval. Konstantin Vassiljev pulled one back for Estonia but the Mexican waves were in full flight by then and it was a case of seeing the game out without suffering any injuries.

Second leg score: Ireland 1 Estonia 1 (Ireland won 5-1 on aggregate).

EURO 2016 v BOSNIA & HERZEGOVINA: First leg score: Bosnia-Herzegovina 1 Ireland 1.

Ireland again had home advantage in the second leg and returned from a foggy Zenica with a 1-1 draw thanks to Robbie Brady’s opener.

There was always the threat of midfielder Miralem Pjanic dominating possession but Glenn Whelan shackled the Juventus playmaker, while Edin Dzeko hardly got a sniff of goal up front.

Jonathan Walters scores Ireland’s second goal against Bosnia and Herzegovina in the second leg of the EURO 2016 qualifier play-off at the Aviva. Pic: Sportsfile

A dubious penalty call for handball allowed Jon Walters fire home to give Ireland the lead and Robbie Brady’s free-kick delivery 20 minutes from the end enabled the forward to volley in his second and kill the tie.

It was mission accomplished by Martin O’Neill and Roy Keane at the end of their first campaign in charge.

Second leg score: Ireland 2 Bosnia-Herzegovina 0 (Ireland won 3-1 on aggregate).

Source: breakingnews.ie

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