2002 World Cup Finals – Group E Matches and Table
Ireland V Cameroon – First World Cup Group Match in Niigata, Japan, 01 June 2002
The Republic of Ireland opened it’s 2002 World Cup campaign with a Group E match against Cameroon from Africa on 1st June in Niigata, Japan. There had been a lot of a speculation on how the Irish would react to the major distraction caused by the infamous Saipan Affair and to the absence of inspirational captain Roy Keane. Indeed the Irish began in a somewhat hesitant fashion and appeared to lack confidence.
It was no great surprise when the Irish fell behind to a goal from Patrick Mboma after 39 minutes. In the second half the Irish team emerged with renewed belief and with a real sense of purpose. Mick McCarthy substituted Steve Finnan for Jason McAteer and the change seamed to improve the Irish performance.
Just seven minutes into the second half Matt Holland drove home an equaliser from the edge of the Cameroon box following a period of Irish pressure. There were no further goals, even though Robbie Keane did hit the post late on. Under the circumstances a draw was a good result for the Irish.
Ireland V Germany – Second World Cup Group Match in Ibraki, Japan 04 June 2002
Next up for the Irish was Germany in the second Group E match. The Germans, with a rich World Cup pedigree, had won their first group match against Saudi Arabia 8-0 so the Irish team was really up against it.
The Germans started the match in menacing fashion and once again there was no great surprise when Miroslav Klose took advantage of some hesitancy in the Irish defence to put Germany 1-0 up. Although the Irish, and particularly Damien Duff, played well and retained possession for long periods they couldn’t get an equalising goal.
Once again Mick McCarthy make a decisive substitution bringing on Niall Quinn and Steven Reid with about 15
Minutes remaining. Just as it looked like the Irish were running out of ideas, and the Germans were settling for a 1-0 win, Ireland pulled something from the Jack Charlton football manual. With mere seconds remaining a long punt up the pitch was nodded on by Quinn. Robbie Keane latched onto the ball and he managed to squeeze the ball between Oliver Kahn’s finger tips and the inside of the German post. Another 1-1 draw for the Irish.
Ireland V Saudi Arabia – Third World Cup Group Match in Yokohama, Japan 11 June 2002
Following the breathtaking finish to the German match the Irish were left with the task of beating Saudi Arabia by two goals or more to be assured of qualifying for the second round matches at the 2002 World Cup.
The Saudis had been thrashed 8-0 by Germany but had tightened their defence against Cameroon and only lost 1-0. Ireland couldn’t take anything for granted and had to approach the match in a totally professional manner. Every thing was going to plan when yet another Robbie Keane goal gave the Irish an early lead in the eight minute.
Ireland had to wait until defender Gary Breen steered the ball home following a Stephen Staunton free kick 17 minutes into the second half for the second goal. Damien Duff added the icing of a third goal when he fired through the hands of Saudi goal keeper Mohammed Al-Daeyea with three minutes remaining. In the end it was a comfortable win.
A German 2-0 victory over Cameroon confirmed that Ireland had qualified for the second round of matches in the 2002 World Cup. Mick McCarthy’s men had defied the difficulties of the Saipan Incident and their missing captain to qualify for a Spain / Ireland tie in Suwon, Japan on 16 June 2002.
Group E Table – World Cup 2002
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