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16.06.2002 at 20:30 Sowon World Cup Stadium, Suwon Attendance: 38926
Spain 1 - 1
(3 - 2 PEN.)
Republic of Ireland
Referee: Anders Frisk (Sweden) World Cup Finals-match

Goalscorers
Morientes 8 Robbie Keane (pen.) (90)
Opening squads
Casillas
Puyol,
Juanfran,
Helguera,
Hiero,
Luis Enrique,
Baraja,
Valeron,
De Pedro,
Raul,
Morientes
Shay Given
Steven Finnan
Gary Breen
Gary Kelly
Ian Harte
Steve Staunton
Mark Kinsella
Matt Holland
Kevin Kilbane
Damien Duff
Robbie Keane
Substitutes
Mendieta,
Luque,
Albelda
Kenny Cunningham
David Connolly
Niall Quinn
Substitutions
Mendieta for De Pedro 66
Albelda for Morientes 72
Luque for Raul 80
Kenny Cunningham -> Steve Staunton (50)
Niall Quinn -> Gary Kelly (55)
David Connolly -> Ian Harte (82)
Yellow cards
Juanfran 62,
Baraja 87,
Hiero 89,
None.
Red cards
None None.
Match report | Preview
Match 379

Spain 1 Ireland 1
(Spain won 3-2 on penalties after extra-time)

Spain: Mendieta (Goal), Baraja (Goal), Juanfaran (Saved),Hiero (Goal), Valeron (Post)

Ireland: Harte (Saved),Holland (Crossbar),Robbie Keane (Goal),Connolly (Saved),Finnan (Goal), Kilbane (Saved)

The end of an era or the dawn of a new age? Cool reflection will confirm that for Ireland the epic events at Suwon’s vibrant theatre before 38,926 fans provided both a tantalising glimpse of the future and a tearful farewell to an extraordinary and memorable World Cup odyssey.

Ireland deserved more. They gave Spain a one-goal lead with all the benevolence of a rich aunt indulging her nephew. They then rose in a controlled rage to dominate their haughty opponents so comprehensively as to choke them to within an inch of elimination.

Ireland failed, however, to capitalise in circumstances that were almost bizarre. They failed to score the winning goal they needed despite the fact that Spain were reduced to 10 men because of injury for 30 minutes extra time.

To have come so close, to within touching distance of a place in the quarter-finals, and to fail was a cruel twist of fate, so cruel it was bordering on torturous.

Of course it is easy at this remove to adopt a detached and superior air and be critical; to say no team of professionals should fail from four out of seven penalties, that no player should have been left unaware that Spain had only 10.

It was easy to chide the over-emphasis on seeking Niall Quinn’s willing head in extra time. It was easy to suggest more efforts should have been made to isolate Damien Duff and set him running at full-back Juanfran who was compromised by a yellow card for almost an hour.

But how could anyone with red blood flowing in his veins not salute this squad. How could anyone reflect on the appalling and untimely disruption that all but exploded Ireland’s World Cup campaign before it was launched and not be complimentary.

How could anyone live through 120 minutes of raw passion, grinding intensity and excruciating tension and not feel totally proud of Ireland and enriched by their efforts. There were shortcomings certainly, and most obviously in the 30 minutes extra time, but it must be conceded they enjoyed no luck.

For there was so much that was good and progressive and, indeed, inspired in Ireland’s play. The deployment of Duff on the right instead of the left was a brilliant move and he surely had more impact because he did not have to engage the combative and lightning-quick Puyol on Spain’s right.

The decision to keep faith with Ian Harte was totally justified for the full-back was in top form. His use of the ball was exemplary until his sad penalty attempt and the need to beef up the strike force brought a premature end to his campaign.

Spain were sustained by Morientes near-post header after eight minutes as Puyol was given time and space to deliver the perfect cross. In spite of that Spain were so dominated by an increasingly more aggressive Ireland that they resorted to withdrawing their two strikers, Raul and Morientes, to beef up their midfield.

This in spite of the huge set-back of Harte’s penalty miss. It arrived, heartbreakingly after 61 minutes when Duff zipped inside Juanfran who mis-timed his tackle. A yellow card for Juanfran but sadly no goal as Casillas knocked down a penalty that lacked conviction and Kilbane mis-kicked the rebound agonisingly wide.

Incredibly, such a costly miss caused Ireland to step up their game and it was a mystery as to how Spain survived until the 90th minute.

Ireland played with a real swagger with Robbie Keane much improved on his indifferent first half performance and Duff was, as always, a delight. The self-effacing young winger is a genius, clearly one of the top players in this World Cup. It is surely a huge tribute to his skill and elusiveness that Spain should have employed the talented Mendieta as a defender, his natural attacking inclinations subjugated by the need to act as a buffer, forever between Duff and the player attempting to give him the ball. Yet Duff excelled; the most exciting player on the pitch.

Referee Frisk showed commendable courage when he penalised Hierro for yet another foul on Quinn with a minute to play. Robbie Keane’s penalty was sublime and now surely, we thought, justice would prevail.

It was not to be and the extra 30 minutes were not flattering to Ireland. Physically and emotionally drained, they could not maintain the punishing pace they had set. And in their eagerness to set up a winning goal, Ireland fell into the old trap of seeking Quinn from deep when a they should have been more concentrated on spreading the play and passing a numerically disadvantaged Spain to death.

Admiration for Ireland’s performance was diluted by the belief that they had been out-scored in a match they should have won. Such a cruel end to the careers of Staunton and Quinn and to a campaign that was bravely fought.

IRELAND (4-4-2); Given; Finnan, Breen, Staunton (Cunningham 49), Harte (Connolly 81); Kelly (Quinn54), Kinsella, Holland, Kilbane; Robbie Keane, Duff.

SPAIN (4-4-2); Casillas; Puyol, Hierro, Helguera, Juanfran; Luis Enrique, Baraja, Valeron, De Pedro (Mendieta 66); Morientes (Albelda 72), Raul (Luque 80).

Referee: Mr A. Frisk (Sweden)

AS the Irish media scrum around Gaizka Mendieta to grab a word or two of his broken English, somebody asks him about Damien Duff. “He is a great player, one of the great players in the World Cup,” Mendieta remarks candidly, and on an evening when most Spaniards refused to acknowledge they were lucky to remain in the World Cup, this is noteworthy praise.

But then, Mendieta couldn’t have said anything else. Duff’s performance in torturing the Spanish brought him another step closer to greatness, and perhaps swelled up a wave of interest in the Primera Liga for Ballyboden’s finest.

Of all the Irish players who deserved victory yesterday, none did more so than Duff. Is there a player who will be remembered more when the nation consigns this World Cup to memory?

As one Homer Simpson-inspired tricolour proclaimed, “Can’t get enough of that wonderful Duff.” In this World Cup, that pretty much summarises the Irish support’s thirst for Duff’s talent.

“I enjoyed it when I got out on the wing, that is where I feel most at home and the amount of ball I was getting there made me very happy,” he said. It didn’t make Juan Fran very happy, though. His desperate lunge on Duff which resulted in the first penalty was simply born from total frustration at being unable to get close to the maestro.

In the end, it wasn’t enough. Fate handed Ireland the cruellest blow, Duff’s incredible display just becomes a footnote in a night of disappointment. All the same, heads are high.

When he returns from holidays in a few weeks, Duff will, more than likely, find himself embroiled in an unsightly scramble for his signature. There might even be some Spanish names in the ring.

He’s not thinking about that, just yet. Instead, he wants to concentrate on Ireland, the nation he may be dragging by the scruff of their necks for the next eight years. At 23, Duff has one world at his feet and another stretching out in front of him.

When time passes, we may even look at the World Cup as the seminal stage in his development. Tearing apart defensive reputations, dropping the shoulder and inducing fear in any player he ran at, there have been few more impressive players than Duff at this World Cup.

None of this is likely to swell his head. Duff remains one of the most earth-bound characters you could meet. As journalists wish to wax lyrical about another individual display, Duffer points to the team.

“We did everything we could, we just couldn’t get that goal. The lads did brilliantly, every single last one of them. And penalties, they are not a nice way to go out. The lads who took them, fair play to them, they were very brave. “

Duff was never a likely candidate. As the team practised penalties during last week’s training sessions, Duff said he felt nervous even taking the spot-kicks in practice. Instead he was among the players, whose nerves tingled and goose-pimples rose, in the centre circle.

“Yeah, when we were standing in the centre circle, Niall did his best to settle all the lads. He was a great help there, he made sure everyone kept their heads. And anyone can miss, the best players in the world have missed penalties, so you can’t blame anyone.”

Speculation mounted before the tournament that this might be Mick McCarthy’s swansong, but Duff doesn’t see it. There is too much talent coming through.

“Mick is very proud of us all. We bossed a worldclass side for most of the game, what more can you say than that. And I dearly hope he stays, he has been brilliant.

“There’s a few lads bowing out now, like Alan and Quinny, but there are so many young lads coming through, there is hope for the future.” Hope spearheaded by Damien Duff.

AS the Irish media scrum around Gaizka Mendieta to grab a word or two of his broken English, somebody asks him about Damien Duff. “He is a great player, one of the great players in the World Cup,” Mendieta remarks candidly, and on an evening when most Spaniards refused to acknowledge they were lucky to remain in the World Cup, this is noteworthy praise.

But then, Mendieta couldn’t have said anything else. Duff’s performance in torturing the Spanish brought him another step closer to greatness, and perhaps swelled up a wave of interest in the Primera Liga for Ballyboden’s finest.

Of all the Irish players who deserved victory yesterday, none did more so than Duff. Is there a player who will be remembered more when the nation consigns this World Cup to memory?

As one Homer Simpson-inspired tricolour proclaimed, “Can’t get enough of that wonderful Duff.” In this World Cup, that pretty much summarises the Irish support’s thirst for Duff’s talent.

“I enjoyed it when I got out on the wing, that is where I feel most at home and the amount of ball I was getting there made me very happy,” he said. It didn’t make Juan Fran very happy, though. His desperate lunge on Duff which resulted in the first penalty was simply born from total frustration at being unable to get close to the maestro.

In the end, it wasn’t enough. Fate handed Ireland the cruellest blow, Duff’s incredible display just becomes a footnote in a night of disappointment. All the same, heads are high.

When he returns from holidays in a few weeks, Duff will, more than likely, find himself embroiled in an unsightly scramble for his signature. There might even be some Spanish names in the ring.

He’s not thinking about that, just yet. Instead, he wants to concentrate on Ireland, the nation he may be dragging by the scruff of their necks for the next eight years. At 23, Duff has one world at his feet and another stretching out in front of him.

When time passes, we may even look at the World Cup as the seminal stage in his development. Tearing apart defensive reputations, dropping the shoulder and inducing fear in any player he ran at, there have been few more impressive players than Duff at this World Cup.

None of this is likely to swell his head. Duff remains one of the most earth-bound characters you could meet. As journalists wish to wax lyrical about another individual display, Duffer points to the team.

“We did everything we could, we just couldn’t get that goal. The lads did brilliantly, every single last one of them. And penalties, they are not a nice way to go out. The lads who took them, fair play to them, they were very brave. “

Duff was never a likely candidate. As the team practised penalties during last week’s training sessions, Duff said he felt nervous even taking the spot-kicks in practice. Instead he was among the players, whose nerves tingled and goose-pimples rose, in the centre circle.

“Yeah, when we were standing in the centre circle, Niall did his best to settle all the lads. He was a great help there, he made sure everyone kept their heads. And anyone can miss, the best players in the world have missed penalties, so you can’t blame anyone.”

Speculation mounted before the tournament that this might be Mick McCarthy’s swansong, but Duff doesn’t see it. There is too much talent coming through.

“Mick is very proud of us all. We bossed a worldclass side for most of the game, what more can you say than that. And I dearly hope he stays, he has been brilliant.

“There’s a few lads bowing out now, like Alan and Quinny, but there are so many young lads coming through, there is hope for the future.” Hope spearheaded by Damien Duff.

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