When events in Saipan shook Ireland and the world
Published 26/03/2010 | 05:00
The first World Cup to take place on Asian soil will, in Irish minds, forever be associated with a man who wasn't there.
Roy Keane's Saipan blow-up in 2002 with Mick McCarthy made headlines across the world and placed a shadow over Ireland's participation in the greatest show on earth.
Attempts to coax the Corkman back into the camp failed, with bridges well and truly burned after the infamous piano-room showdown. In his absence, Ireland went on to perform with credit, before losing out on penalties to Spain in the second round. It was the kind of narrow defeat which left a nation wondering what might have been if tensions had remained bubbling under the surface.
That's because it was a World Cup where the underdogs enjoyed fantastic success. Senegal set the tone for the competition with a victory over defending champions France, while Guus Hiddink steered joint hosts South Korea into the semi-finals with a dramatic victory over Giovanni Trapattoni's Italy, which featured some remarkable refereeing decisions.
However, the final featured two familiar protagonists with a German side who struggled against Ireland in the group stages defying expectations to set up a decider with Brazil.
The Samba Boys had been effective rather than spectacular on the road to Yokohama and Luiz Felipe Scolari's charges managed to do just enough again with the combination of Rivaldo and Ronaldo inspiring Brazil to a record fifth success.
The 15 titles in our fantastic collection
1. Germany 2006
2. Korea/Japan 2002
3. France 1998
4. USA 1994
5. Italy 1990
6. Mexico 1986
7. Spain 1982
8. Argentina 1978
9. Germany 1974
10. Mexico 1970
11. England 1966
12. Chile 1962
13. Sweden 1958
14. Switz'land 1954
15. Uruguay 1930