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Ireland Shooting for Great Performance at World Cup - 2002-05-08

The Republic of Ireland's football team heads into this year's World Cup in South Korea and Japan with only one defeat in its last 20 matches through May 8; next friendly is against Nigeria May 16 in Dublin. Coach Mick McCarthy's squad is looking to improve on its performance 12 years ago when it reached the quarterfinals.

Irish Coach Mick McCarthy knows what it takes to advance at the World Cup -he was the captain of the Ireland team that made the final eight at the 1990 tournament in Italy. His recipe for success is simple - score goals.

But McCarthy has had to emerge from the shadow of Jack Charlton, the former Irish coach and England defender, who took the Irish to the World Cup in 1990 and 1994.

International football (soccer) commentator Derek Rae says McCarthy's squad will display a different type of football than that played under "Saint Jack."

"What Mick McCarthy has done is change the philosophy altogether. And now they build from the back," he said. "They like to do that at pace certainly, but they are much more a continental team nowadays. And they proved that in qualifying in that very tricky section that also included Portugal and the Netherlands."

Captain Roy Keane leads the Irish attack along with veterans Niall Quinne and Steve Staunton, who could be playing their last matches for the Irish Republic. With 188 caps international appearances between them "Quinnie" and Staunton are playing in their third World Cup. Derek Rae says Ireland is capable of success in Group E but cannot assume passage to the second round.

"Ireland should be the second strongest team in the group but they can not count their chickens, because Cameroon and Saudi Arabia will offer a different challenge to the one that is normally faced by the Irish," he said. "Germany are no slouches. But I think that the Irish are quietly confident of being able to get to the round of 16."

Ireland opens its World Cup campaign against Cameroon in Niigata, Japan June 1. The Irish take on Germany June 5 in Ibaraki and Saudi Arabia June 11 in Yokohama.