Niall Quinn reveals why he didn’t take a penalty in Ireland’s 2002 shootout defeat to Spain

Niall Quinn Ireland 2002 World Cup
(Image credit: Getty Images)

When the Republic of Ireland's last-16 clash against Spain at the 2002 World Cup went to a penalty shootout, Ireland might have been confident in their then all-time top goalscorer stepping up and confidently dispatching a spot-kick past Iker Casillas in the Spain goal.

However, that didn't materialise. Instead, Niall Quinn - at the time the nation's most successful finisher until Robbie Keane surpassed him in 2004 - offered to take the sixth penalty in the shootout to manager Mick McCarthy, despite there being no guarantee he would even get the opportunity to take one. 

Indeed, Spain ended up scoring three of their five penalties, while Ireland managed to convert just two. Quinn didn't even get a chance to strike a ball in anger in the end. 

Despite that, though, he explained to FourFourTwo in the latest issue, a World Cup special available to buy, the reasoning behind why he didn't take a penalty, on what turned out to be his final international appearance. 

"I wish I had taken one, but it wasn’t a case of bottling it," Quinn said. "I took a few in my time, including against England at Wembley. 

"When it came to that shootout with Spain, I told [manager] Mick McCarthy that I’d have the sixth, as we already had the first five takers written down. It felt like the right thing to do on the night – sadly it was all over before my turn."

Robbie Keane, Steve Finnan, Kevin Kilbane, Matt Holland and David Connolly all stepped up, with the former two players the only two able to score their penalties. Spain, meanwhile, put three of their penalties past Shay Given in the Ireland goal to book their place in the quarter-finals, condemning Ireland to an early plane home. 

Regardless, Ireland had acquitted themselves admirably during the entire game, and arguably deserved to go through on merit ahead of Spain. Fernando Morientes had put Spain 1-0 up early on in the game, but Ireland were awarded a penalty midway through the second half to bring the scores level. 

Full-back Ian Harte stepped up, but Iker Casillas in the Spain goal managed to save his poor spot-kick. Quinn had come on just a few minutes before, replacing Gary Kelly as Ireland went more attacking. 

The pressure started mounting, and, in the 90th minute, Fernando Hierro refused to let go of Quinn's shirt in the penalty area during a long free-kick, leading to the referee pointing to the spot once more. Robbie Keane stepped up and didn't disappoint, sending the game into extra-time, and then, ultimately, penalties. 

What transpired afterwards isn't ideal from an Irish perspective, especially for Quinn, but his explanation of the situation at least serves a reason as to why he didn't make the walk from the centre circle to the penalty spot during the shootout. 

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