By Dermot Clarke
If we were told before the Euro 2000 playoff games that England would lose to Scotland at Wembley and that Ireland would hold Turkey scoreless in Bursa, we would have been forgiven for looking forward to a right old knees-up in Holland and Belgium next year. Ireland and Scotland would have done enough, surely. England, as we know, did lose 1-0 to the Scots at Wembley and the Bursa leg of Ireland-Turkey was scoreless. Alas, it wasn’t enough for either side as the damage had been done in both first legs.
As far as the rub of the green goes, McCarthy is on a par with Eoin Hand. The last four games say it all, Croatia’s injury time winner, Macedonia’s injury time equalizer, Turkey’s late penalty at Lansdowne coupled with Robbie Keane’s late disqualification for the second leg. Then as we sought some late fortune on Wednesday all that was given us was a frightened referee scampering after the ball in an effort to finish the game and get clear of the hostilities as quickly as possible.
Ireland are out of Euro 2000 by virtue of an away goal scored from the penalty spot. People will say that Turkey were the better side, and after the Lansdowne game I thought they were too. I now think that we would have won through, had we been drawn away in the first leg. We tend to have a little more pride in our home games in front of the fans. We like to win them, whether the win be necessary or not.
England needed to avoid a 2-0 defeat by Scotland at Wembley. Kevin Keegan didn’t need to tell his charges this. I wonder, though, what he did tell them. When Keegan left Liverpool for Hamburg, he was replaced by Kenny Dalglish. Dalglish went on to manage the then unbeatable at Anfield Reds. Ten years ago, Liverpool had to avoid a 2-0 defeat by Arsenal in order to clinch yet another title. The team were sent out with the wrong attitude. The team went on the field trying to avoid a two-goal defeat. Michael Thomas scored in the final minute and Arsenal did win 2-0. The same fate almost befell Kevin Keegan on Wednesday. Keegan held on by the skin of his teeth. Don Hutchison’s early goal will still go down in folklore as the one that beat England at Wembley, but England and Turkey will still march to Euro 2000 with their heads held high.
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