Watch: This day 18 years ago, Ireland set up a World Cup last 16 tie with Spain with victory over Saudi Arabia

Thu, Jun 11 2020

Damien Duff sealed the win for Ireland late on. Credit: Billy Galligan (ETPhotos)

It’s 18 years to the day since the Republic of Ireland sealed their place in the last 16 of the 2002 World Cup with a comprehensive 3-0 win over Saudi Arabia.

Goals from Robbie Keane, Gary Breen and Damien Duff sealed a straightforward win and a date with Spain in the round of 16.

Ireland went into the game knowing that bettering Cameroon’s 1-0 win over the Saudis on matchday two would all but guarantee them a spot in the knockout phase.

Mick McCarthy’s side got off to the ideal start in Yokohama as Robbie Keane, the hero in Ibaraki a week earlier, scored his second of the tournament.

The striker checked back to meet a Gary Kelly cross and his well-struck low volley squirmed under the body of Saudi keeper Mohamed Al-Deayea.

It took Ireland until the hour mark to get the all-important second goal, and it was another fine volley from an unfamiliar source, as centre-half Gary Breen hit the net.

Breen lost his marker and met Steve Staunton’s outswinging free kick with a most unorthodox volley that left Al-Deayea clutching at the air once more.

While Germany wrapped up top spot with a 2-0 victory over Cameroon in Shizuoka, Damien Duff made it 3-0 late on as the hapless Al-Deayea produced another howler.

Matty Holland played an inch-perfect through ball for Duff coming in off the left, and the Ballyboden man’s firmly-struck shot was fumbled into the net by the captain.

With second place secured, Ireland would go on to face Group B winners Spain in Suwon on June 16th.