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   01 June, 2002 | 1400 IST



France get the blues

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Ireland rally to hold Cameroon

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Down by a first-half goal, Ireland staged a grand fightback in the second session to hold Cameroon 1-1 in their group E match in the 2002 football World Cup in Niigata, Japan, on Saturday.

After being on the receiving end for much of the first-half, the Irish outmanoeuvred and outplayed Cameroon in the second session to almost pull off a senational victory.

Patrick Mbomba put Cameroon ahead while Matt Holland drew level for Ireland.

Cameroon's Patrick Mboma (R) scores as Ireland's Matt Holland tries to defend After the first quarter was confined to the midfield, Cameroon had their first chance in the 17th minute, when Samuel Eto advanced into the box and had a shot at goal, but his effort was well-blocked by goalkeeper Shay Given, who dashed off his line.

Then came Ireland's first clear look at goal, with forward Robbie Keane heading a cross from Ian Harte just wide from six metres in the 23rd minute.

In the 30th minute, Ireland midfielder Jason McAteer was booked for pulling back Salomon Olembe.

Ireland fans cheer the team during the matchAfter piling much pressure, Cameroon scored in the 39th minute. Eto broke clear down the right and sent a through to Patrick Mboma, who scored with a calm, low left-footer.

Mboma had another good look at the Ireland goal in the 41st minute, but his looping volley from 20 metres flew narrowly over the Ireland bar.

Ireland came back after half-time and were more forceful. And after Gerimi balooned over from close for Cameroon, Ipswich midfielder Matt Holland restrored parity for Ireland in the 52nd minute with a stiff shot from 25 yards that went into the corner of the net.

Ireland were denied the lead in the 63rd minute by goalkeeper Alioum Boukar, who did well to stop on the goalline a header from Robbie Keane.

Thereafter. it was Ireland all the way.

Ireland's brave performance sent a powerful message to Roy Keane, whose departure after a very public bust-up with manager Mick McCarthy had disrupted the side's preparations and threatened to scupper their chances at the finals. But they coped admirably without their combative midfielder, prompting their fans to sing "Are you watching Roy Keane?"

Both teams reached the quarter-finals in Italy 12 years ago, and are eager to repeat that feat with Cameroon carrying the hopes of Africa after Senegal sensationally won their opening match on Friday against world champions France.

Starting line-ups
Ireland: Shay Given, Gary Kelly, Gary Breen, Steve Staunton, Ian Harte, Jason McAteer, Matt Holland, Mark Kinsella, Kevin Kilbane, Damien Duff, Robbie Keane.

Cameroon: Boukar Alioum, Bill Tchato, Raymond Kalla, Rigobert Song, Geremi, Lauren, Marc-Vivien Foe, Salomon Olembe, Pierre Wome, Samuel Eto'o, Patrick Mboma.

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