By Jay Mwamba
Ireland was not the only team left singing the blues by a rankling defeat on the eve of the finals.
Cup holders France, Italy, the United States and the Republic’s two main Group E rivals, Germany and Cameroon, all came a cropper in the final run-in to the 32-nation championship starting next Friday.
The French crashed 2-1 to Belgium in Paris on strikes by Glen de Boeck (20th) and Marc Wilmots (90th). Frank Leboeuf (40th) replied for the champions.
In Prague, Liverpool midfielder Vladimir Smicer (25th) sent Italy reeling to a 1-0 defeat.
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After wins over Uruguay and Jamaica, the United States came crashing back to earth last Sunday. They succumbed 2-0 to Holland at Foxboro, Mass. Roy Makaay (45th) and Andy van der Meyde (76th) connected for the Dutch.
Team USA had blown out Jamaica 5-0 at Giants Stadium last Thursday, four days after icing Uruguay 2-1. Josh Wolff (32nd, 60th), Clint Mathis (47th), Landon Donovan (84th) and DaMarcus Beasley (90th) scored.
Zambian-born striker Robbie Earnshaw connected on his debut for Wales in a 1-0 victory over Germany in Cardiff.
The Germans, however, rebounded four days later with a 6-2 mauling of neighbors Austria in Leverkusen.
Miroslav Klose (15th, 29th, 53rd) starred with a hat trick. Marco Bode (36th, 70th) and Bierofka (83rd) were also on target, while Rene Aufhauser (37th) and Roman Wallner (46th) got Austria’s consolation goals.
In all, Germany came up the worse for wear when defender Christian Worns was ruled out of the finals because of a knee injury.
Denmark needed a disputed penalty to edge African champions Cameroon 2-1 in Copenhagen.
Jon Dahl Tomasson (58th) converted the spot kick that even coach Morten Olsen admitted was unfair and undeserved.
An own goal by Lucien Mettomo (20th) had put Denmark ahead. Modeste Mbami (74th) pulled one back for the “Indomitable Lions.”
Cameroon’s World Cup squad named after the match comprises: goalkeepers — Alioum Boukar, Jacques Songo’o, and Carlos Kameni.
Defenders — Rigobert Song (captain), Raymond Kalla Nkongo, Pierre Wome Nlend, Lucien Mettomo, and Pierre Njanka Beaka.
Midfielders — Bill Tchato, Nicolas Alnoudji, Eric Djemba Djemba, Marc Vivien Foe, Lauren, Joseph Cyrille Ndo, Daniel Ngom Kome, Geremy Njitap Fotso, Salomon Olembe, and Joel Epalle.
Forwards — Samuel Eto’o, Patrick Mboma, Pius Ndiefi, Patrick Suffo and Joseph Desire Job.
South Korea thrashed Scotland 4-1 in Busan to boast their confidence further ahead of the finals. Ahn Jung-Hwan (two), Lee Chun-Soo, and Yoon Jong-Hwan scored for the Group D-bound co-hosts. Scott Dobie was the Scottish scorer.
In Barcelona, Ronaldinho Gaucho (21st, 44th) and Edmilson (75th) tallied as Brazil dispatched regional side Catalunya 3-1. Luis Garcia (63rd) was on mark for the home side.
Poland ended a run of poor results in their build-up by decisioning Estonia 1-0 in Warsaw. Maciej Zurawski (57th) scored.
There was also a 2-0 victory for Uruguay over China in Shenyang. Sebastian Abreu (77th, 89th) struck.
Swedish midfielder Hakan Mild, who played at USA ’94, has dropped out of this year’s team after rupturing an Achilles tendon in training.
Spain have also suffered a blow with the loss of first choice goalie Santiago Canizares in a bizarre bathroom accident.
Canizares, who’s 31, broke a bottle of aftershave and accidentally dropped it on his toe in his room at the team’s training camp. A shard cut a tendon in his toe. He underwent a successful operation that will keep him out of action for two months.