Saturday, June 19, 2010

World Cup Memories - 2002, and 2006

Ireland made it to the 2002 World Cup finals, but there was only one show in town - Roy Keane and the Saipan incident. Nothing divided the country like this since the Civil War - you were either for or against Roy on this. Keane was sent home for this rant against manager Mick McCarthy:

Mick, you're a liar... you're a fucking wanker. I didn't rate you as a player, I don't rate you as a manager, and I don't rate you as a person. You're a fucking wanker and you can stick your World Cup up your arse. The only reason I have any dealings with you is that somehow you are the manager of my country! You can stick it up your bollocks.


When the finals got underway we could concentrate on football, even though the Keane story dominated the media here. Our first game was against Cameroon - we were in Westport for my late mother-in-law, Mary Rose Bourke's 70th birthday party. Early the next morning Matt Holland's goal finally banished Keane to the inside pages. A late draw against Germany and an easy win over Saudi Arabia set us up for a Last 16 match with Spain which we lost on penalties. It was good while it lasted, but disappointing to go out like this.

Other memories include: lots of surprise results, Ronaldo's rediculous haircut, fantastic Korean support, golden goals, Senegal's surprise win over France, Beckham's penalty winner against Argentina, Turkey's impressive advance to the semi-finals, and watching the final in Dublin airport with the final whistle going as I was the last person to board the plane.

The most recent World Cup finals in Germany in 2006 showed a return to the old order with the traditional powers of football getting a return to form. All four semi-finalists were European (Germany, Italy, France, and Portugal), but there were few goals in the final stages. Penalty shoot-outs also featured strongly - with the Swiss, Argentines, England, and the French in the final losing out.

Things to remember the 2006 finals for: a man who slept in front of the TV in the hotel in Westport to get a good seat for the Ireland vs Cameroon match, crowds in parks watching on big screens, flamboyant football from the Germans!, Wayne Rooney sent off, Zindane's head butt on Materazzi in the final, new countries in the finals for the first time: (Ghana, Togo, Trinidad & Tobago, Ivory Coast, and Angola), and superb defending from Italy captain Fabio Carnavarro. 

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