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Euro 2008 Football Championship - Irish Qualifying Campaign
In qualifier Group D for the Euro 2008 Football Championship the Republic of Ireland were drawn with Germany, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Wales, Cyprus and San Marino. The group's top team would gain automatic qualification to the Euro 2008 Finals in Portugal. The top ten second placed teams were entered into a play-off on a home and away basis.
Disastrous Start to the Irish Euro 2008 Qualification Campaign
Stephen Staunton was the latest in the line of Republic of Ireland Soccer managers to try his hand at qualifying the Irish football team for a major championships. There was a high degree of surprise at his appointment by the FAI as Staunton had no previous soccer management experience. His first competitive football match was a 1-0 away defeat to the mighty Germans in Stuttgart in September 2002. There was nothing to be embarrassed about losing to Germany but what followed completely undermined Staunton's tenure as Irish soccer manager.
In a shambles of a performance Ireland lost 5-2 in Nicosia to Cyprus. After taking an early lead, through Stephen Ireland, it looked like the Irish were on the way to a routine win over a team that had never even drawn with Ireland in the past. Within two minutes the Cypriots had equalised and six minutes later they were in the lead. Richard Dunne scored an equaliser just on the stroke of half time bit in the second half the Irish team simply fell apart. The Irish conceded three more goals without reply and it could have been more. Ireland had no shape, no game plan and in the end had no spirit left.
Euro 2008 Qualifier Results - From Bad to Worse
Despite an improved performance in a 1-1 draw at home to the Czech Republic and a sound 5-0 home victory over San Marino the Irish produced a performance that outdid the disaster of Nicosia. In the return away match against San Marino Ireland struggled to beat these absolute minnows in World Football. Once again the team looked rudderless but when Kevin Kilbane scored early in the second half it looked like the Irish could go on to score a few more goals. Unbelievably the Sammarinese scored an equaliser through Manuel Marani in the 86th minute.
There was complete shock and panic within the Irish team and management. Up to this point San Marino had not scored any goals and had conceded 25 in the team's three previous games. Now it looked like San Marino would claim draw with the Republic of Ireland. It was only the intervention of a Stephen Ireland goal in the 94th minute that saved some dignity for the Irish.
Some Improvement in Euro 2008 Qualifying Matches
Performances and results picked up with home victories over Wales and Slovakia - both be one goal to nil. Both of these matches were played in Croke Park and were the first international soccer matches ever played at the venue. Ireland's normal home venue, Lansdowne Road had been closed for redevelopment into the new Aviva Stadium. Next up was an away draw with Slovakia which was followed by, a 1-0 defeat at the hands of the Czech Republic in Bratislava, and a creditable scoreless draw at Croke Park against Germany in October 2007.
Cyprus (and the Malaise) Returns
With home attendances dropping in line with Ireland's diminishing hopes of qualification for Euro 2008 in Portugal Cyprus came to Dublin giving Ireland an opportunity for a modicum of revenge for the humiliation in Nicosia. Any hopes of handing out a reciprocal beating to the Cypriots quickly evaporated as the Irish struggled to handle their speedy and skillful footballers. Unbelievably Cyprus snatched the lead in the 80th minute through Okkarides.
Once again the Irish needed a last minute goal to save their blushes. A 92nd minute goal from Steve Finnan prevented Cyprus completing an amazing double over the Republic of Ireland soccer team. This was too much for the FAI and Stephen Staunton did not get to complete the qualifying campaign. The final Irish football match in Group D of the 2008 European Championship qualifiers was a 2-2 draw in Cardiff against Wales. Don Givens managed Ireland for this match.
Irish Euro 2008 Qualifiers Summary
The Irish campaign in the Euro 2008 equalizers is notable for a number of reasons - most of which are unpalatable to Irish soccer fans:
Euro 2008 Qualifying Campaign - Group Table
Republic of Ireland Euro 2008 Qualifiers - Match Results
Irish World Cup Qualifying Group Results
Number of Appearances and Goals Scored in Irish World Cup Qualifying Campaigns
Number of Appearances and Goals Scored in Irish Euro Championship Finals Qualifying Campaigns