Keane was part of the squad that participated in the 1988 UEFA European Under-16 Football Championship although he did not play. He was man of the match for the Republic of Ireland national under-19 team when they beat hosts Hungary in the 1990 UEFA European Under-18 Football Championship to qualify for the 1991 FIFA World Youth Championship. When called up for his first game at international level, an under-21s match against Turkey in 1991, Keane took an immediate dislike to the organisation and preparation surrounding the Irish team, later describing the set-up as “a bit of a joke”. He would continue to hold this view throughout the remainder of his time spent with the national team, which led to numerous confrontations with the Irish management. Keane declared his unavailability to travel with the Irish squad to Algeria, but was surprised when manager Jack Charlton told him that he would never play for Ireland again if he refused to join up with his compatriots. Despite this threat, Keane chose to stay at home on the insistence of Nottingham Forest manager Brian Clough, and was pleased when a year later he was called up to the Irish squad for a friendly at Lansdowne Road. After more appearances, he grew to disapprove of Charlton’s style of football, which relied less on the players’ skill and more on continuous pressing and direct play. Tensions between the two men peaked during a pre-season tournament in the United States, when Charlton berated Keane for returning home late after a drinking session with Steve Staunton. Keane was included in the Republic of Ireland senior squad for the 1994 FIFA World Cup in the U.S. and played in every game, including a famous 1–0 victory over tournament favourites and eventual runners-up Italy. Despite a second-round exit at the hands of the Netherlands, the tournament was considered a success for the Irish team, and Keane was named the best player of Ireland’s campaign. Keane, however, was reluctant to join the post-tournament celebrations, later claiming that, as far as he was concerned, Ireland’s World Cup was a disappointment: “There was nothing to celebrate. We achieved little.” Keane missed crucial matches during the 1998 World Cup qualification matches due to a severe knee injury, but came back to captain the team to within a whisker of qualifying for UEFA Euro 2000, losing to Turkey in a play-off. Ireland secured qualification for the 2002 World Cup under new manager Mick McCarthy, greatly assisted by a number of match-winning performances from Keane. In the process of qualification, Ireland went undefeated, both home and away, against international football heavyweights Portugal and the Netherlands, famously beating the latter 1–0 at Lansdowne Road.