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   June 10, 2002 | 1300 IST


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Ireland won't take Saudi lightly

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Alan Wheatley

Believe him or not, but Ireland manager Mick McCarthy says he's not getting worked up about Tuesday's make-or-break World Cup tie with Saudi Arabia.

Ireland need to win 2-0 to guarantee they qualify for the second round of the 32-team competition but the phlegmatic McCarthy insists the game is nothing out of the ordinary.

"We tend to keep a fairly even keel about things and just prepare for the game rather than getting excited about what might be," he told reporters on Monday at Ireland's training camp north of Tokyo.

"There's obviously preparations going on -- there has to be in case hopefully we do get through -- but I'm always cautious about making preparations for something's that not yet happened."

Saudi Arabia, already eliminated from the finals, turned in a spineless performance when they went down 8-0 to Germany. But they salvaged pride in their second game against Cameroon, losing just 1-0, and McCarthy said it would be a feather in their cap if they could knock Ireland out of the competition.

"They're not going to lay down and let us win the game," he said.


Ireland, with two points from two draws, will qualify on goal difference if they win by two goals on Tuesday whatever the outcome of the game between Cameroon and Germany. In their two previous finals, Ireland have made the second round each time.

Having drawn 1-1 with both teams, McCarthy tips Germany to beat Cameroon. But he said he wouldn't be keeping track of the match, which kicks off in Shizuoka at the same time as Ireland and Saudi Arabia in Yokohoma.

"If we win our game, I think that's all we can do. I get enough to worry about without worrying about Germany and Cameroon as well."

A battling side, Ireland usually give a good account of themselves on the World Cup stage, as they showed when they equalised against group favourites Germany last Wednesday thanks to a Robbie Keane goal in injury time.

But scoring goals is not their strongest suit. They are a 1-0 team rather than an 8-0 team. McCarthy dismissed the idea of tampering with his tried-and-trusted 4-4-2 formation by playing an extra striker.

"To change it now strikes me as bizarre. It would throw us more than the opposition," he joked.

Ireland have done well despite banishing captain Roy Keane after a big bust-up with McCarthy at the team's pre-tournament training camp on the South Pacific island of Saipan.

Asked whether the game against Saudi Arabia was the biggest of his managerial career, McCarthy didn't hesitate.

No, he said, the biggest was the Cameroon match, the first played without Keane -- not that the name of the Manchester United captain passed his lips.

Why was it more important, McCarthy was pressed to say.

He refused. "You know the full reason why."

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