Ireland slowed Africa’s World Cup challenge yesterday, holding Cameroon to a 1-1 draw after Senegal’s fairy-tale win over world champions and old colonial masters France.
The African and Olympic champions took the lead when striker Patrick Mboma took a leaf out of Senegal’s book with a 39th-minute goal in game two of the 2002 World Cup and the first match on Japanese soil.
Ireland, whose buildup was disrupted when captain Roy Keane was sent home after an acrimonious clash with coach Mick McCarthy, battled back in the second half, and drew level from Matt Holland in the 52nd minute.
Cameroon’s German coach, Winfried Schaefer, said his team was disappointed by the result, but he was not discouraged.
“Cameroon can play better. We can strengthen the way we play together. Will we cause a surprise? Who knows, but you should not underestimate the African teams,” he said after the match.
Senegal’s 1-0 victory in Friday’s opening game in the South Korean capital Seoul sent a surge of joy through Africa, a continent used to playing the underdog and added spice to the world of football just when it needed it.
The result has left France with little breathing space in their remaining group A games against Uruguay and Denmark. Denmarks 2-1 win over Uruguay yesterday complicated matters further for the defending champions.
Schaefer said his team were nervous in the second half. “Now I must build up the team’s morale again for the Saudi Arabia game as they are disappointed with the result after leading 1-0,” he added.
“It was a good result,” Holland said. “I thought we played very well in the second half. If anything I thought we were the stronger team in the second half, and that’s something we can be very pleased with.
“We haven’t been beaten, that gives us a good chance of advancing in the competition.”
Ireland plays its next match in Group E on Wednesday against Germany while Cameroon play Saudi Arabia the next day. Most of Cameroon’s legitimate chances came in the first half.
The four-time African champions almost went ahead in the 19th minute when Mboma split the Irish defence with a through-pass to Eto’o, who advanced into the area and fired a low shot that Given turned wide.
The Irish had a chance of their own three minutes later when Robbie Keane rose to glance a header inches wide of the post after a cross from the left flank. They nearly levelled again in the 44th minute as captain Rigobert Song almost poked the ball into his own goal following an Irish free-kick.
The second half was more equal. Just four minutes into session, Ian Harte broke wide down the left side to deliver an accurate cross but Kevin Kilbane’s glancing header sent the ball inches wide