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Tokyo misses the Irish

By CNN's Patrick Snell

TOKYO, Japan (CNN) -- There's something very strange at the moment about Tokyo's vibrant nightlife -- the distinct lack of Irish.

And that is a crying, needless shame. A place in the last eight is the very least the supporters deserved.

Ireland played well but it is easy to lose count of the number of times you hear the claim: "We deserved to win."

Spain break Irish hearts after shootout 

However, that is what must be so hard for the players and their followers to accept. They did play well and finished much the stronger side against Spain.

Spain for all their quality were a beaten side -- a team on their last legs -- shattered by Irish spirit and desperate for the match to go as far as penalties.

Instead, it is a second round exit for Ireland, but it could and should have been so much more.

Ireland's magnificent support witnessed their side bow in a shoot-out where too many players lost their nerve. Casillas' saves were nothing more than routine.

Ireland achieved what they did without their most influential player. There is no doubt that with Roy Keane in the ranks, Ireland would have beaten Spain in regulation time. They would not have needed another last minute goal to salvage the game.

Now the tournament is over the fans want answers. They want to know exactly what happened, why Keane was allowed to leave the side when at the peak of his playing powers.

Steve Staunton filled in admirably as captain but the Irish midfield so badly lacked the calming yet awesomely powerful sight of the Manchester United skipper.

This Irish side has so much potential but its die-hard supporters should not be forced to settle for just the second round, especially when lesser sides have already made the last eight.

Ireland desperately needs Keane to spearhead the campaign for the European Championships in Portugal in two years time.



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