Cameroon beat Senegal in the African cup final, so what are they going to do to a Keaneless Ireland? The answer is not a lot. Great promise in the first half, with the indomibinamble, indobina, inbomidabadaba oh what the heck lions scoring through Mbomba after good work down the right by Geremi and in particular an impressive Eto'o. Half time b*llocking by McCarthy does the trick though, and Holland hits a low drive past Alioum in the second half.
Spanish league players: Eto'o was Cameroon's most impressive player, causing a lot of problems for the Irish defence. Geremi played his usual steady game on the right of midfield as did Kalla in defence, and Suffo came on for the last 20 minutes without much effect. N'Kome didn't play.
Hmm, well. Germany are supposed to be in trouble, with top players out injured and Rudi Voller's team playing the worst football of their history. So would Saudi Arabia provide another shock in this opening group E tie? Not quite. Actually Germany got the biggest World Cup score in 20 years against one of the worst sides to appear in the competition.
Four goals in each half, and it could have been half a dozen more with a bit more luck. Klose got a hat-trick of headers, two in the first half and one in the second, as the Saudi radar system failed to pick up any of the German air attacks. Ballack and Linke also got headed goals, Jancker turned in a cross on the stroke of half time, substitute Bierhoff poked a long shot past a lethargic Al Deayea and Schneider finished things off with an injury time free kick. Saudi manager Nasser Al Johar may be unemployed fairly soon.
Spanish league players: None.
A last second goal from Robbie Keane helped Ireland forget his namesake Roy and set up a nail-biting last round of games in group E. Mick McCarthy's side were a goal down as the game swung into the second minute of time added on when a desperate long ball was played into the German penalty area. Veteran substitute Niall Quinn rose to head the ball down, and there was Keane to take the ball past a defender and force his shot past Kahn.
Germany had taken the lead with only twenty minutes gone when Polish born striker Miroslav Klose got ahead of Ian Harte to head Ballack's long cross down past Given, his fourth goal of the tournament. For a moment it looked as if they were going to get another hat-full, but Eire fought back inspired by captain Steve Staunton, who was playing his 100th game for his country. An inspired Kahn kept out two or three certain goals, but then Keane struck to keep Ireland's hopes of qualification for the next round alive.
With Cameroon and then Ireland to play the weak Saudi Arabia, Germany may now have to beat Cameroon in their last game to be sure of reaching the next round.
Spanish league players: None.
Cameroon found it harder than expected to beat a proud Saudi Arabia side who were still smarting after being thrashed by Germany in their last game. In the end it took an excellent goal by Mallorca striker Samuel Eto'o to win the match, although the result was not certain until the referee blew the final whistle. Cameroon had two goals disallowed for offside in the first half, and although Mboma did appear to be in front of the defence for the first one, Lauren's effort seemed to be perfectly valid.
The Saudis though had their chances as well, with Al Dosari going close before he had to leave the field injured in the first half and Al Temyat bringing a good save out of Alioum after the break. The defeat though means that Saudi Arabia are the first team to be mathematically eliminated from the competition, although they can now go into their last game with Eire with their heads held high. Worth noting is that, if the Irish win that match by a difference of two or more, Cameroon will have to beat Germany in the other group tie to get through to the second round.
Spanish league players: Four players who ply their trade in Spain started the match, including Eto'o who opened his account with the winning goal from a long pass by Real Madrid's Geremi (although some reports said it came from ex Mallorca player Lauren, currently at Arsenal). Kalla, who is on his way from Extremadura to Portsmouth, was a stalwart in defence, and Numancia's Kome played the first half of the game.
Germany won through to the last sixteen of the competition after winning a bad tempered match in which Spanish referee López Nieto showed a record sixteen yellow cards and sent off a man on each side. With goal difference in their favour Rudi Voller's side only needed a draw to qualify. Cameroon had to win though, and they came at the German defence early on. Luckily for the Europeans they have the best keeper in the world between the sticks, and Kahn saved the day, standing firm when Olembe beat the offside and got free. Song should have beaten him though when a static defence allowed him a free header, but he put his effort wide with the goal gaping in front of him. Cards were coming thick and fast as players slid all over the wet surface, and Ramelow was the first to see red shortly before the break after bringing down a flying Eto'o as he cut through the defence.
Voller brought on Bode for Jancker after the interval to compensate for the loss of his defender, and it proved an inspired move as he ran on to Klose's through ball to shoot low past Alioum. The Camerooni players looked defeated, but they shrugged off their disappointment and Lauren hit the post with a good header. But eventually the numbers were evened up when substitute Suffo picked up a second booking, and Klose finished things off leaping to head home his fifth goal of the tournament from Ballack's cross. There was still time for Alioum to make a couple of good saves, but it was his last of the competition and the indominable lions must return to their cage. Germany as usual have started shakily, but this is par for the course and they always get better as the competition wears on. They have three men suspended for their next match, but they could be an outside bet for another title?
Spanish league players: Kalla, Geremi and Eto'o played throughout the match, as they had done in the two previous games. Suffo and Ngom Kome both came on in the second half, with Suffo picking up two yellow cards in just over 20 minutes and getting himself sent off by Spanish referee Antonio López Nieto.
The Irish success story rolls on. Mick McCarthy's side needed to do something they had never done before, score more than one goal in a World cup finals match, to progress to the next round. True their opponents were only Saudi Arabia, who had already let in nine goals and whose star striker Al Jabar was in hospital with appendicitis. But they had given Cameroon a hard time, and were playing for their national pride. Ireland started well when Kelly put over a high cross for Robbie Keane to whip the ball into the net under Saudi keeper Al Deayea, who was celebrating a world record 171st international appearance in this game.
But after that it was hard going, and the Arabians caused some problems for a shaky Given, who nervously punched out a couple of dangerous balls into the box. The rain was coming down heavily, and McCarthy turned to veteran striker Niall Quinn after the break. Keane hit a shot on the turn which went just wide, and then Gary Breen finally scored the much needed second goal, connecting with Staunton's free kick to send the 10,000 or so Irishmen (and women) in the crowd wild. It was already enough, but just to make sure Duff ran on to Kinsella's through ball to shoot through Al Deayea's hands and in to the net near the end. Ireland cross over from Japan to Korea to play the group B winners at the weekend. Just as well - supplies of Guiness have already run out in the land of the rising sun.
Spanish league players: None.