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Nigeria tune-up offers Irish taste of Africa

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Jay Mwamba

In their last tune-up in Dublin before leaving for the World Cup finals, Ireland take on unpredictable Nigeria at Lansdowne Road tomorrow, in a rare meeting with African opposition.

While the Republic announced its 23-man squad last week for the 32-nation championship, which kicks off on May 31, places in the Nigerian team remain up for grabs. This could mean a spirited effort by the often-lethargic former African champions.

Super Eagles coach Festus Onigbinde is nonetheless expected to field his strongest side. Likely starters include Arsenal star Nwankwo Kanu, Chelsea’s Celestine Babayaro, the squat midfield dribbling m’stro Austin Okocha, and striker Julius Aghahowa — he of the multiple back-flips.

The encounter with Nigeria is designed to give the Ireland team a taste of African soccer ahead of its Group E opener against Cameroon in Niigata on June 1.

Cameroon, meanwhile, play Denmark in Copenhagen tomorrow.

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In other pre-World Cup friendlies this week, the United States dates Jamaica at Giants Stadium at the Meadlowlands tomorrow night, then faces Holland in Boston on Sunday; while on Saturday Italy are away to the Czech Republic, France host Belgium, and Germany loosen up against Austria.

Teuron blitz

Germany, Ireland’s other Group E foes, went on another scoring spree at home, crushing Kuwait 7-0 in Freiburg last Thursday.

Oliver Bierhoff starred with a hat trick, with Torsten Frings, Sebastian Deisler, Sebastian Kehl and Carsten Jancker adding to the tally. Germany previously beat Isr’l 7-1 and the U.S. 4-2 before a slipping 1-0 to Argentina three weeks ago.

Results

The United States edged Uruguay 2-1 in a bruising tussle in Washington, D.C., last Sunday. Tony Sanneh (6th) and DeMarcus Beasley (39th) scored. Sebastian Abreu (59th) pulled one back for Uruguay.

In Mexico City, Mexico beat Colombia 2-1, thanks to Jared Borgetti (52nd) and Raf’l Marquez (75th). John Restrepo (65th) was on target for the Colombians.

Augustin Delgado continued to sparkle for Group G-bound Ecuador, who posted two wins in three days. The Southampton striker downed Yugoslavia in a 1-0 decision at Giants Stadium last Thursday, then struck again in Los Angeles last weekend as Ecuador scrapped past AC Milan 2-1. Carlos Tenorio was the other scorer.

In Durban, South Africa (Group B) had a goal from Thabo Mngomeni (14th) in a 1-0 win over Madagascar last Sunday.

Injury list

England’s injury woes are still mounting. Newcastle United midfielder Kieron Dyer, a Sven Goran Eriksson favorite, was ruled out of the finals after suffering knee ligament damage at the weekend.

Steven Gerrard’s immediate World Cup future, meanwhile, was put in doubt when his troublesome groin injury flared up again.

England, who are in Group F with Argentina, Sweden and Nigeria, already have injury problems with skipper David Beckham and Nicky Butt.

Group H members Belgium were rocked by the loss of key forward Emile Mpenza. The 23-year-old, lost a race to regain fitness before the finals and ruled himself out of the Belgian squad.

Beetlejuice

German auto manufacturer Volkswagen is promising each member of the Mexican national team a new car for a top three finish in Japan/Korea ’02.

Each player will receive a Passat for winning the World Cup, a Jetta for finishing second and a Golf for coming in third. The vehicles would come from Volkswagen’s Mexican manufacturing plant which produced 386,690 vehicles last year.

It is hoped that the incentive will rev up Mexico’s chances in Group G where they engage Italy, Croatia and Ecuador in the first round.

German squad

Rudi Voeller last week announced his 23-man contingent for the finals. The squad, from which the team to meet Ireland in Ibaraki on June 5 will be picked, comprises:

Goalkeepers — Jorg Butt (Bayer Leverkusen) Oliver Kahn (Bayern Munich), Jens Lehmann (Borussia Dortmund).

Defenders — Jorg Heinrich (Borussia Dortmund) Sebastian Kehl (Borussia Dortmund), Thomas Linke (Bayern Munich), Christoph Metzelder (Borussia Dortmund), Marko Rehmer (Hertha Berlin), Christian Worns (Borussia Dortmund), Christian Ziege (Tottenham Hotspur).

Midfielders — Michael Ballack (Bayer Leverkusen), Sebastian Deisler (Hertha Berlin), Torsten Frings (Werder Bremen), Dietmar Hamann (Liverpool), Jens Jeremies (Bayern Munich), Carsten Ramelow (Bayer Leverkusen) Bernd Schneider (Bayer Leverkusen).

Forwards — Gerald Asamoah (Schalke 04), Oliver Bierhoff (Monaco), Marco Bode (Werder Bremen), Carsten Jancker (Bayern Munich), Miroslav Klose (Kaiserslautern), and Oliver Neuville (Bayer Leverkusen).

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