By Jay Mwamba
Ireland’s other Keane, young forward Robbie Keane, starred last weekend in the Republic’s final warmup match before Saturday’s big Group E opener against Cameroon.
Keane, who’s 21, connected twice as Ireland eked out a hard-fought 2-1 victory over J-League side Sanfrecce Hiroshima in their first game after the banishment of Roy Keane.
It was a Pyrrhic victory for Ireland as Jason McAteer and Kevin Kilbane both went off injured.
McAteer appeared to be the more seriously hurt of the two when he was
stretchered off in the 35th minute with a knee injury following a challenge by
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Hiroshima’s former Cameroonian international defender, Bilong.
However, a scan on the injury later showed bruising on the bone but no ligament damage, meaning that McAteer could still start in Niigata on Saturday.
Kilbane was also forced off with an ankle injury in the 62nd minute after a tackle by Yuichi Komano. His condition is not serious.
Their overzealous tackling aside, the Japanese club gave the Irish a run for their money. Hiroshima went ahead in the 40th minute when Tatsuhiko Kubo was presented with a free header from six yards.
Keane needed just four minutes to reply in kind. Kilbane flicked on a corner which the big Leeds United striker nodded in at the far post.
Keane struck again in the 78th minute, finishing off another header from
Niall Quinn for the winner.
Cameroon’s “Indomitable Lions” outplayed England for 89 minutes before conceding a last second goal in a 2-2 draw in Kobe.
A Robbie Fowler header on the stroke of full time denied the Olympic and African champions a famous victory after they had twice led Sven Goran Eriksson’s injury-riddled side.
Samuel Eto’o, the Lions’ 21-year-old striker to watch against Ireland, opened the scoring in the 5th minute. Although Darius Vassell bagged the equalizer seven minutes later, Fotso Geremi put the Africans ahead again from a 20-yard free kick in the 58th minute.
England were bound for a demoralizing defeat when Teddy Sheringham headed a long ball to Fowler whose exquisite finish lopped into the net.
Germany, the Republic’s June 5 opponents, also showed good form in crushing Japan’s Under-21 national side 10-0 in Miyazaki, on a weekend that most World Cup participants spent putting finishing touches to their preparations.
Tomas Linke (18th), Marco Bode (21st), Karsten Jancker (36th), Miroslav Klose (39th), Oliver Bierhoff (57th, 82nd), Oliver Neuville (75th, 81st), Gerald Asamoah (80th), and Lars Ricken (90th) reeled in the goals.
“I am convinced we will have a good World Cup,” said German coach Rudi Voeller.
The three-time champions kick off against Saudi Arabia in Sapporo on Saturday.
Saudi Arabia, meanwhile, were hammered 3-0 by Japanese First Division side Tokyo Verdy in their last game before the tournament. The match was played behind closed doors in Chofu.
Cup holders France, who begin their defense against their former colony
Senegal in Seoul this Friday, edged co-hosts South Korea 3-2 on Franck
Leboeuf’s 89th minute winner in Suwon.
The Koreans — drawn in Group D with the United States, Poland and Portugal — came from 1-0 down after David Trezeguet’s opener (14th) to lead 2-1 on goals by Park Ji-Sung (26th) and Seol Ki-Hyeon (41st).
Christophe Dugarry (53rd) saved the French blushes before Leboeuf struck.
Wakayama, France’s Group A rivals Denmark beat Tunisia 2-1 on goals by Jesper Gronkj’r (17th) and ace striker Ebbe Sand (67th). Zied Jaziri (62nd) replied for Tunisia.
Belgium’s Bart Goor (23rd) swept the Group H contenders past Costa Rica via a 1-0 scoreline in Kumamoto.
Italy, one of the title favorites, had an injury scare with key striker Filippo Inzaghi after he’d netted in the 13th minute of a friendly against Kashima Antlers. Inzaghi later came off with a knee injury.
The Azzurri prevailed 2-1 after Christian Vieri (24th) had added a second goal. Tomoyuki Hirase (53rd) pulled one back for the Japanese club.
There was also a 2-0 victory for the United States’ first opponents in Group D, Portugal, who knocked off Bora Milutinovic’s China 2-0 in Macao.
Nuno Gomes (51st) and Pedro Pauleta (62nd) scored.
Brazil went on a second-half scoring spree in a 4-0 romp over Malayasia in Kuala Lumpur. Ronaldo (52nd), Juninho (64th), Denilson (71st) and Edilson (79th) tallied.
In Tokyo, Japan and Sweden tied 1-all after Johan Mjallby’s own goal (62nd) had canceled out Markus Allback’s icebreaker for the Swedes.