IBARAKI — Once again the opposition wore green, but this time they actually put up a fight.
Germany, fresh off its opening 8-0 pounding of Saudi Arabia, had to settle for a 1-1 draw against a stubborn Irish side Wednesday evening in a Group E encounter at a chilly Kashima Stadium.
And while the key figure wasn’t the Keane who had made all the headlines in the build up to this World Cup, it was a Keane, nonetheless, who had Irish eyes smiling — and the enthusiastic army of green-clad Irish fans cheering on Wednesday.
Robbie Keane blasted a close-range shot in off the right goalpost in injury time to earn Ireland its second point of the tournament.
Keane chested down a flick-on into the box from second-half giant substitute Niall Quinn before lashing home the dramatic equalizer past advancing German goalkeeper Oliver Kahn.
“Centerforwards score goals, that’s their job, to score goals, and he’s scored a very vital one,” Ireland coach Mick McCarthy said.
“We threw men forward and it paid off. I think we were the better side. The stats will back it up. We were the better team.”
The result means that Germany will have to put the beer back on ice, as a win against the Irish would have pretty much guaranteed the three-time champion a spot in the second round.
“I’m extremely angry and disappointed,” Germany’s coach Rudi Voeller said. “When you’re 1-0 up with one minute to go and concede a goal, it hurts.
“But we’re still top of the table and all we need is a point against Cameroon.”
Germany got the only goal of the first half, tournament leading scorer Miroslav Klose once again doing the damage.
Bayer Leverkusen midfielder Michael Ballack carried the ball down the left flank and swung a perfect cross into the box.
All Klose needed to do was get his head on the ball, and that’s just what the clinical striker did, sending it past helpless Irish goalkeeper Shay Given in the 19th minute and chalking up his fourth goal in two games in the process.
Klose seemed to be wreaking some psychological damage as well, appearing to get under the skin of the Irish with his theatrical dives.
Irish captain Steve Staunton was particularly incensed, giving the Kaiserslauten forward an earful on a couple of occasions.
Klose’s strike partner for Germany, the gangly Carsten Jancker, actually had the best chances to open the scoring.
But the shaven-headed 193-cm Bayern Munich star, who looks like he just stepped off the set of the latest Star Wars film, had a close-range header saved by Given after 13 minutes and was also pushed off the ball by an Irish defender as he tried to break in alone a minute later.
The Irish had a few chances of their own in the first half, with midfielder Matt Holland, the hero of their opening 1-1 draw against Cameroon, driving a low shot just wide after 25 minutes. Perhaps their best chance of the opening half came just before the break, however, when Keane botched an attempted scissors-kick directly in front of goal.
But the Irish refused to quit and 10 minutes into the second half they gave the Germans a scare.
Steve Finnan drove a ball into the German penalty area that was nodded down by Kevin Kilbane to the feet of Damien Duff.
Duff fired a sharp-angled shot that Kahn barely got a piece of to deflect it just past the far post.
The Germans struck back with a chance of their own at the 65-minute mark as the ever-dangerous Jancker was left one-on-one with Given, only to aim his chip just wide.
In an omen of what was to come, Kahn made two fine saves from Keane as the game wound down.
In the 85th minute, Kahn came racing off his line and threw his body at the ball as Keane was closing in on a loose ball.
Four minutes later, Keane — who is no relation to the disgraced Manchester United captain Roy Keane, who was sent home before the tournament for insubordination — was on the doorstep and sent a header toward goal that was knocked into touch by a leaping Kahn.
That set the stage for the dramatic finish that must have had the Irish fans asking “Roy who?”
“We’ve given ourselves a chance, haven’t we? We have to go and play Saudi,” McCarthy said after the game. “I’ll be watching them tomorrow against Cameroon to see what happens. We’re in with a chance.”
German midfielder Carsten Ramelow said: “At 1-0 it was not enough. We knew we had to get a second goal to feel safe. In the end they equalised with practically the last touch of the game.
“It was a great shame for us. But we tried everything . . . I think we played well but that’s the sort of thing that can always happen. It shouldn’t but it did.”
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