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Keane keeps Irish dream alive

Late, late strike gives team vital point as German ace Khan is finally beaten

World Cup 2002: Ireland 1 Germany 1

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Robbie Keane celebrates scoring his 92nd minute equaliser against Germany at the 2002 World Cup.  Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

Robbie Keane celebrates scoring his 92nd minute equaliser against Germany at the 2002 World Cup. Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

Robbie Keane celebrates scoring his 92nd minute equaliser against Germany at the 2002 World Cup. Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

GERMANY went Klose but courtesy of Robbie Keane's sensational buzzer-beating equaliser, it was. the Republic of Ireland who left Ibaraki last night with the 'big Havana, cigar' and a World Cup.strut.

For the best part of 92 minutes in the Kashima Stadium, Oliver Kahn, "King Kahn' of the Bundesliga and, 'Nationalmannschaft', underlined his world number one goalkeeping status until his pocket was picked by the artful dodger of the Irish attack, Keane.

Sadly, FIFA' s doping control unit requested Keane give a urine sample following the match, which he had still failed to provide 90 minutes after the final whistle. However, the glorious goal, which will forever be part of Irish sporting folklore, scripted another unlikely chapter in the Republic of Ireland's unprecedented World Cup adventure.

From, the moment the Roy Keane rumpus exploded on Saipan, the Irish have been THE story of these finals.

Off the pitch, on the pitch, you can’t keep Mick McCarthy's men away from centre stage.

It is almost a case of blink and you miss something.

On a sultry night-in Ibaraki, their odyssey took another unbelievable twist when the team with the knack of conceding late goals plundered one of their own to totally alter the complexion of Group E.

To fight back against Cameroon was one thing, to do so again against the might of triple World Cup winners, Germany, was quite another and yet the scrappers in green richly deserved their precious point.

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The Ireland team that drew with Germany in their Group E match at the 2002 World Cup finals (from left) – Back row: Steve Staunton, Kevin Kilbane, Gary Breen, Ian Harte and Steve Finnan. Front: Robbie Keane, Matt Holland, Mark Kinsella, Gary Kelly, Shay Given and Damien Duff. Photo: Sportsfile

The Ireland team that drew with Germany in their Group E match at the 2002 World Cup finals (from left) – Back row: Steve Staunton, Kevin Kilbane, Gary Breen, Ian Harte and Steve Finnan. Front: Robbie Keane, Matt Holland, Mark Kinsella, Gary Kelly, Shay Given and Damien Duff. Photo: Sportsfile

The Ireland team that drew with Germany in their Group E match at the 2002 World Cup finals (from left) – Back row: Steve Staunton, Kevin Kilbane, Gary Breen, Ian Harte and Steve Finnan. Front: Robbie Keane, Matt Holland, Mark Kinsella, Gary Kelly, Shay Given and Damien Duff. Photo: Sportsfile

For sheer drama, it was a result to compare with the defeat of England in Euro ‘88, Romania in Italia ‘90, Italy in US '94, Holland at Lansdowne Road last September.

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The only difference this time was that Ireland didn't win but it didn't matter because it felt every bit as good.

As Danish referee Kim Milton Nielsen blew for time barely sixty seconds after Keane's cataclysmic equaliser, there was an explosion of joy from Ibaraki to Inchicore to Inchydoney and all points in between.

This was the team who engaged World Cup combat ripped apart by the Roy Keane controversy, who took to the battlefields shorn of their Samson, and weren't given a prayer of surviving the opening skirmishes.

Not only are they still standing but they now find themselves in a position to progress to the last 16 with one Group E game to come, against Saudi Arabia in Yokohama next Tuesday.

For a team without a player from the top three clubs in the Premiership, without a player who earns his living outside of England, and including one, Gary Breen, who has no club affiliation at all, theirs is a collective achievement which defies sporting logic

Up against the Irish raggle-taggle crew were the muscular might of the Bundesliga, with three players from Bayern Munich, winners of the Champions League in 2001, and three more from Bayer Leverkusen, finalists last month.

The Irish had Breen, and a clutch of relegation scrappers from Blackburn, Sunderland and Ipswich.

It was akin to trying to halt the Bismarck with a pea-shooter, and yet they pulled it off.

And this wasn't a fluke, a game where the ball skidded off someone's back-side in the last minute and hobbled Into the net for a ‘'steal.'

This was a performance where the Irish turned around a dodgy opening 25-minute spell, when they went.asleep for Miroslav Hose's 19th-minute lead goal - his fourth in two games in the finals - and trailed in the possession stakes 56 per cent to 44 per cent.

By the end of an emotional roller-coaster ride, little ‘ol Ireland had outgunned the Germans 58 pc to 42 pc in terms of possession, and were left to ponder on what might have been as a cluster of gilt-edged chances were spurned.

On another night, Kahn's thick thighs, wouldn't have deflected Damien Duff’s point-blank effort in the 56th minute beyond the post for a corner, Ian Harte and Keane would have made close range free-kicks counts, Keane would have scored with a bicycle kick, Matt Holland's drive would have been six inches farther right, Quinn's pass to Keane would have had a fraction less pace on it.

On another night, the Irish could have had three or four goals.

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Robbie Keane strikes late to draw Ireland level in their World Cup 2002 group match against Germany

Robbie Keane strikes late to draw Ireland level in their World Cup 2002 group match against Germany

Robbie Keane strikes late to draw Ireland level in their World Cup 2002 group match against Germany

Instead, they had to settle for one, right at the death, when the Germans were thinking what to bring with them to Korea for the next phase of the competition.

Now, nothing is certain as any team, including the much-maligned Saudis, could yet emerge from the group.

As for the Irish, if they can hustle and harry, united in spirit and self-belief like this when they play next in Yokohama, a win against Saudi Arabia is theirs for the taking and with it a possible extension of their journey to Korea.

When the gunsmoke clears after this eventful game, Keane will claim most of the plaudits for his dramatic denouement to an occasion where the untidy quality of play didn't detract from the pulsating drama.

But there were other Irish heroes, notably McCarthy who backed, his hunches, and made the right call in the final 17 minutes as he dispensed with his innate conservative streak and went for broke with a 3-4-3 formation.

Breen too was a colossus in defence, defying his uncertain status at club level with his finest performance ever for Ireland by some margin.

He was resolute and committed throughout and answered questions about his capacity to survive at this level.

Beside him, the gnarled centurion, Steve Staunton, gave his all before running out of juice in the final minutes while Steve Finnan vindicated his selection at right-back with a resourceful display.

In the trenches, Holland and Mark Kinsella ran their legs to stumps while Duff was a dazzling menace in attack, forcing the Germans to double up on him to curb his. influence.

The Ballyboden boy, as unassuming as the day he made his debut in Olomouc over four years, ago, is simply In a different class to most players in the finals and I wouldn't be surprised to find Europe's elite clubs banging a path to his door after the finals.

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Republic of Ireland striker Robbie Keane (left) was mobbed by team-mates after his last-gasp equaliser against Germany (Kirsty Wigglesworth/PA)

Republic of Ireland striker Robbie Keane (left) was mobbed by team-mates after his last-gasp equaliser against Germany (Kirsty Wigglesworth/PA)

Republic of Ireland striker Robbie Keane (left) was mobbed by team-mates after his last-gasp equaliser against Germany (Kirsty Wigglesworth/PA)

As for the old hand, Quinn, he showed in his 20-minute cameo he can still pose problems for any defences with his aerial prowess.

It wasn't all sweetness and light as the Irish had problems down the left flank where Ian Harte and Kevin Kilbane have yet to click in the finals while Gary Kelly, selected ahead of Jason McAteer is possibly out of position on the right side of midfield.

In attack, Keane sparkled fitfully but to his eternal credit, never dropped the head as he sought an opening on goal.

He had missed two excellent chances earlier before converting the one that mattered.

It was as late as late can be, but all the sweeter for that.

Rep of Ireland: Shay Given, Steve Finnan, Gary Breen, Stephen Staunton (captain) (Kenny Cunningham 87), Ian Harte (Steven Reid 73), Gary Kelly (Niall Quinn 73), Matt Holland, Mark Kinsella, Kevin Kilbane, Robbie Keane, Damian Duff.

Substitutes not used: Lee Carsley, Gary Connolly, Richard Dunne, Alan Kelly, Dean Kiely, Jason McAteer, Clinton Morrison, Andy O'Brien.

Goals: Robbie Keane 90'.

Germany: Oliver Kahn, Thomas Linke, Carsten Ramelow, Christoph Metzelder, Torsten Frings, Dietmar Hamann, Michael Ballack, Bernd Schneider (Jens Jeremies 90), Christian Ziege, Carsten Jancker (Oliver Bierhoff 75), Miroslav Klose (Marco Bode 85).

Substitutes not used: Gerald Asamoah, Frank Baumann, Jorg Bohme, Hans-Joerg Butt, Sebastian Kehl, Jens Lehmann, Oliver Neuville, Marko Rehmer, Lars Ricken.

Goals: Klose 19'.

Referee: K Nielsen (Denmark)

Attendance: 35,854

Philip Quinn’s Player Ratings:

SHAY GIVEN 7

Apart from picking the ball out of the net after Miroslav Hose seared for Germany, Given was hardly tested as the back four formed a near-Impregnable shield. A fresh-air on the edge of the box late on caused same palpitations for those on the bench.

STEVE FINNAN 8

Vindicated his selection with a composed and classy contribution. One penalty-saving tackle on Michael Bollock was a highlight the other was his penetrative delivery which led to Ireland's last-gasp leveller. In the team to stay.

GARY BREEN 9

For a man without a club, Breen was a colossus. Dominant against the cumbersome Jancker In the air, he didn't put a foot out of place On this evidence, there should be no shortage cf Premiership takers when he returns home, His best game for Ireland by miles.

STEVE STAUNTON 8

What a way to celebrate his 100th international appearance Overcame an uncertain start when he found Klose a tricky customer both in the air and on the deck, to help shore up the rearguard. Ran out of puff in the final few minutes but could be excused for that.

IAN HARTE 6

Could have tucked in better for the Germany goal as he allowed Klose to steal a vital half a yard on him. Substituted for the second successive game and could be under pressure, possibly from his uncle Gary Kelly, to keep his place.

GARY KELLY 7

Selected ahead of Jason McAteer and didn’t flinch as the bullets flew in the midfield trenches before being sacrificed as McCarthy went for more firepower up front with 17 minutes to go. Better suited to right-back or even on the left.

MATT HOLLAND 8

Scampered, harried and hustled. Holland covered more ground than any other player on the park and almost capped the night with another 'Matt' finish. Such was his work-rate that the Influence of ploy maker Michael Ballack was kept to a minimum.

MARK KINSELLA 7

Found it tough on his delicate knees to be playing his second game in five days, but he didn’t duck out as he helped to form a bridgehead with Holland. Early on, the midfield creaked but by the end it had the substance of tungsten.

KEVIN KILBANE 6

Slung over a couple of teasing crosses In the first half but he flitted in and out of things. Finished strongly, as he tends to do but he needs to get involved in games a bit quicker and add some variety and subtlety to his play.

DAMIEN DUFF 10

Sheer genius. Duff Is arguably the most exciting player ever to have worn an Irish shirt. His natural ability is limitless, his courage infinite and his capacity to take a game by the scruff of the neck is unrivalled.- Dublin's answer to George Best.

ROBBIE KEANE 8

Goals are the lifeblood of strikers and Robbie's 92nd minute strike excused the misses which preceded his brilliant finish. On another night, he could have had three. Don't bet against that happening against the Saudis when goal difference could be vital.

NIALL QUINN 8

There's life in the old man yet! Made an enormous Impact when he came on as an 83rd minute sub. Earned a free-kick, won three headers, and provided the precious 92nd minute assist. Left the field sporting the brightest smile In Iborakl.

STEVEN REID 7

Started the day by presenting a watch to Steve Staunton to mark his 100th cop and his own timing was absolutely spot on, arriving on the pitch for that crucial final quarter. A young man who looks to have a big future in the green shirt.

MICK MCCARTHY 8

Mode the key tactical switch with 17 minutes to go. Throwing on Niall Quim and changing to a 3-4-3 was a gamble that paid off handsomely Team showed immense spirit and the manager deserves much credit for turning the sad saga of Saipan into the unbridled joy of Japan.


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