The Republic of Ireland is one of the most passionate footballing countries on the planet.
The fans of the Emerald Isle, with their singing and never-say-die attitude, are some of the most beloved in all sports. We have seen them travelling in their droves to support Conor McGregor in his UFC endeavors over in the States, and we have seen the Green Army supporting the national team at several international soccer tournaments, a sport that is amongst one of the most popular in the country.
However, one such event the Irish won’t be attending is next summer’s UEFA Euro 2024 in Germany. For the second straight European Championships, Ireland has not qualified for the continental showdown. Three years ago, the Irish finished behind Switzerland and Denmark before losing to Slovakia in the playoffs. This time around, the Boys in Green could only manage victories against Gibraltar, losing all six of their other fixtures against France, the Netherlands and Greece in a dismal qualifying campaign.
The French topped the qualification group and Bovada websitehas made Les Bleus a narrow +325 favorite for success in Germany. As such, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Stephen Kenny’s side lost to them both home and away in missing out on qualification. But that wasn’t always the case. Here is how Ireland has fared in their last three major international tournaments.
Back at Euro 2016, Ireland was drawn into a difficult-looking group with Belgium, Italy, and Sweden. The opening game against Sweden ended in a 1-1 draw, followed by a 3-0 loss to Belgium all but sealing their early elimination from the tournament. But with their backs against the wall, Ireland needed a win against Italy to progress to the knockout stages, and they somehow managed to pull it out of the fire.
Robbie Brady’s stunning late strike sent the travelling Irish fans into raptures and sealed their side’s progression to the knockout rounds as one of the best third-place teams. And it looked as though things would get better when Brady gave them an early lead from the penalty spot against hosts France in the second round. But unfortunately, that was as good as it would get. Two goals in as many second-half minutes from Antoine Griezmann meant that the Boys in Green succumbed to a 2-1 defeat, but they did so with their heads held high.
Euro 2012 in Poland and Ukraine marked Ireland’s first foray onto the continental stage since 1988. The Irish narrowly missed out on automatic qualification after finishing just two points behind Russia. However, they made up for that in the playoffs, making the most of a favourable draw against Estonia to qualify courtesy of a 5-1 aggregate victory.
Their reward? Being drawn into a tough group with reigning champions Spain, would-be finalists Italy, and a Croatia side on the cusp of its golden generation. Unfortunately, they were outclassed in all three games and ended the tournament without a point. Mario Mandžukić’s brace secured a 3-1 victory for the Croats in their first game, despite defender Sean St. Ledger equalising after 19 minutes.
Then, a double salvo from Fernando Torres, as well as goals from David Silva and Cesc Fabregas completed a 4-0 rout for Las Rojas. Finally, goals from Antonio Cassano and a last-gasp Mario Balotelli strike sent the Boys in Green back to the Emerald Isle. Those two would ultimately contest the Kyiv showpiece, with Spain once again running out 4-0 victors and becoming the first team in history to successfully defend the trophy.
The 2002 FIFA World Cup marked Ireland’s third time participating in soccer’s premier international tournament. It was the third time in four installments of the tournament that the Irish had featured, and they haven’t managed to qualify in the two decades since. In qualification, they managed to finish above the heavyweight Netherlands however, finished behind Portugal on goal difference. As such, they had to go into the inter-continental playoffs, but goals from Ian Harte and Robbie Keane were enough to secure a 2-1 victory against Iran.
Once they reached the showdown in the Far East – specifically Japan and South Korea – they were greeted by a group containing Germany, Cameroon, and Saudi Arabia. Things were also made more difficult when captain and talisman Roy Keane was sent how by manager Mick McCarthy after an altercation in training. They drew their opening game against Cameroon in Niigata with Matt Holland’s second-half strike good enough to secure a share of the spoils. They would secure another point in a stunning 1-1 draw with a German side that went on to reach the final, and Robbie Keane’s 92nd-minute equaliser still being played on highlight reels to this day.
The Irish met Saudi Arabia in their final group game knowing that a victory would take them through, and they were up to the task at hand. Keane gave his side an early lead, and second-half goals from Gary Breen and Damian Duff set up a second-round tie against Spain. Unfortunately, however, heartbreak would await.
Ireland managed to keep the game goalless after 120 minutes of action. But misses from Matt Holland, David Connolly and Kevin Kilbane in the shootout allowed Gaizka Mendieta to net the winner for the Spanish.