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Ireland V Cameroon - World Cup 2002
Matt Holland celebrates after scoring
the equaliser against Cameroon
The Republic of Ireland's first match in the 2002 World Cup finals was against Cameroon on 1st June in Niigata's Big Swan Stadium. The stadium's name is derived from the translucent white Teflon roof, which has been constructed to evoke swans landing on the nearby Toyanogata lagoons.
The build up to the World Cup finals had been less than ideal due to the major row between Republic of Ireland manager, Mick McCarthy and team captain Roy Keane during the infamous Saipan Affair. The effects of this disruption and upheaval appeared to be evident in the hesitant start made by the Irish. Cameroon had the better of the opening exchanges.
Cameroon Take the Lead Against Ireland in Niigata
It came as no surprise when the Indomitable Lions took the lead late in the first half. Shay Given had already made an excellent save from Samuel Eto'o in the half but wasn't able to keep out Patrick Mboma's shot in the 40th minute. Once again Eto'o was involved and his pull back after beating Stephen Staunton left Mboma with a relatively comfortable scoring opportunity. As the first half ended things looked somewhat ominous for the Republic of Ireland.
During the half time break Mick McCarthy withdrew Jason McAteer who had been injured in a pre-tournament warm-up match against Japanese club side club side Sanfrecce Hiroshima. Ironically he was injured by a player that hailed from Cameroon. In place of McAteer the Irish manager sent out Fulham's Steve Finnan.
Ireland Equalise Against Cameroon
The switch of Finnan for McAteer and some strong words from McCarthy had the desired effect. With Finnan raiding down the right the Irish adopted a much most positive approach. Having secured the initiative and playing with real confidence Ireland pressed Cameroon back. A Kevin Kilbane cross was only cleared to an advancing Matt Holland who drove a powerful shot past Alioum Bouker into the Cameroon net.
It was almost all Ireland after the equaliser from Holland. The Republic continued to take the advantage in the game and should have gone on to win the match. In the 84th minute Robbie Keane smashed a shot off the post with the Cameroon keeper stranded. Deep into injury time the keeper was called into action again as he brilliantly tipped over an excellent free kick from Steven Reid.
After the poor start the Irish were grateful to get away with a draw but in truth the Republic of Ireland should have had three points rather that the single point from the draw.
Ireland V Cameroon Post-Match Comments
Despite some commentators and TV pundits had written off Irish chances following the Saipan incident. Eamon Dunphy had even gone so far as to wear Cameroon colours in a provocative anti-Ireland stance.
Following Irish performance, particularly in the second half, Mick McCarthy had cause to gloat yet he remained pragmatic after the match "We'll have to play as we did in the second half here for the whole match against Germany. I didn't think that we did as well as we could do."
Robbie Keane said of his near-miss: "To be honest I just hit it and hoped for the best. I thought it was in, but it hit the post and that's the way it goes sometimes."
Captain, Steve Staunton said following his 99th cap for Ireland "'Hopefully we're down to business now - that's what it's all about. The important thing was not to lose the first game and we've done that. We were stronger at the end."
World Cup 2002 - Republic of Ireland V Cameroon Match Statistics
Ireland V Cameroon Team Line Ups
Republic of Ireland Team
Match Attendance: 33,679 - Referee: T Kamikawa from Japan.
2002 World Cup Group E Table After First Round of Matches
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