Irish 1998 World Cup Qualifying Campaign
The Republic of Ireland soccer team was drawn in World Cup Group 8 that also included Romania, Lithuania, FYR Macedonia, Iceland and Liechtenstein. Mick McCarthy had been appointed manager of the Irish soccer in February 1996 as successor to Jack Charlton, who had been the most successful Irish manager ever. It was a hard act to follow and was made more difficult as the Irish team was old and battle weary. McCarthy had to find new Irish soccer talent and blood new players at international level.
1998 World Cup Qualifiers Begin
After a string of less-than-impressive friendly match results (won 1; drew 2; lost 5) Ireland kicked off it’s 1998 World Cup campaign with an away qualifier in Eschen against Liechtenstein. This was the team that did so much damage to Ireland’s Euro 1996 qualification campaign hopes when the Irish failed to beat these minnows of World soccer. There were no such difficulties this time around as the Irish ran out 0-5 winners with Niall Quinn bagging two goals. This was followed up by a 3-0 home win over Macedonia with stand-in striker Tony Cascarino scoring a brace in the second half. After two matches Ireland had maximum points, scored eight goals and conceded none. So far so good.
World Cup 1998 Qualification Banana Skins
After a promising start, for the Irish soccer team in the 1998 World Cup qualifying Group 8, the wheels came off somewhat in the next three fixtures. At Lansdowne Road (now the Aviva Stadium) Ireland tried valiantly but could not defeat Iceland and the match ended 0-0. In the return football match in Skopje, Macedonia beat Ireland 3-2. In a fractious match, against a team that had only ever beaten Liechtenstein and Cyprus in competitive soccer, the Irish conceded two first half penalties and a second half goal by Hristov. To add insult to injury Jason McAteer was sent off in injury team. This was followed up by a 1-0 away loss against table leaders Romania. Automatic qualification for the 1998 World Cup Finals by the Republic was off the table now.
Improved Finish to Ireland’s 1998 World Cup Campaign
A first half hat trick by 19 year old David Connolly and another two goals by second half substitute, Tony Cascarino, gave Ireland a comfortable 5-0 home win over Liechtenstein. Following a disappointing 0-0 draw in Dublin, another goal by Connolly, two from Roy Keane, and a Finnbogason own goal, gave Ireland a 2-4 victory away in the Icelandic capital Reykjavik. Yet another brace of goals from 35 year old Tony Cascarino gave the Irish a 1-2 away win against Lithuania in Vilnius. With one more Group 8 match remaining this effectively secured a play-off spot for the Republic for qualification for the 1998 World Cup Finals. It would take 0-3 away win for Lithuania over Macedonia and for Romania to beat Ireland 0-10 at Lansdowne Road to deprive Ireland. The final match for Ireland was a home 1-1 draw with Romania in October 1997 with Irish veteran Cascarino claiming his seventh goal of the 1998 World Cup qualification campaign when he equalised in the 83rd minute. Romanian veteran Gheorge Hagi had put the visitors ahead in the 53rd minute. Romania finished Group 8 unbeaten and ten points ahead of second placed Ireland. Romania qualified automatically and the Republic went into the 1998 World Cup play-offs.
1998 World Cup Qualifier Play-off : Ireland V Belgium
Ireland was drawn to play Belgium in a two-legged play-off. The Irish were drawn at home first and despite an excellent start through an early Denis Irwin goal the Belgians grabbed a precious away goal in the 68th minute. The match finished 1-1 which left the Republic with an uphill task in the away leg.
Within 25 minutes of the start of the second leg the Irish were behind 2-1 on aggregate when Oliveira scored for the home team. Fourteen minutes into the second half and Ray Houghton struck for the Irish and the advantage of Belgium’s away goal had been wiped away. The teams were all square with about twenty minutes to go when the Belgian goal scorer from the first leg, Nilis, popped up with the winning goal that saw Belgium through to the 1998 World Cup Finals in France and the Irish watching from the sidelines.
Irish World Cup 1998 Qualifying Campaign – Group Table
Republic of Ireland World Cup 1998 Qualifying Campaign – Match Results
Irish World Cup Qualifying Group Results
Number of Appearances and Goals Scored in Irish World Cup Qualifying Campaigns
Irish European Championship Qualifying Group Results
Number of Appearances and Goals Scored in Irish Euro Championship Finals Qualifying Campaigns