Soccer Scene

Preview: Saudia Arabia - Republic of Ireland
World Cup Finals
11.06.2002 at 20:30 - Yokohama

Mick Mc Carthy leads the Irish soccer squad into their crunch match against Saudi Arabia today with his suitcases for tomorrow’s stand-by flight to Korea already packed.With Ireland needing to win by two clear goals to book a place in the second phase, big Mick said his confidence was such that he would have his preparations for the flight finished before the team depart for today’s game in Yokohama.

“I’ll be packing mine in advance,” he said. “I’ll let common sense prevail with the players — if they want to be up packing their bags in the middle of the night, that’s up to them.”

The team leave their training base in Chiba city this morning at 2.30am Irish time for the hour-and-a-half drive to the Yokohama Bay Sheraton Hotel where they will have six hours rest and refreshment before heading to the International Stadium for the 12.30pm Irish time kick-off.

The massive stadium, which will host the World Cup final on June 30, has a capacity of 72,000 so the venue will be a real test of vocal strength for the Irish fans.

But they were assured by the players that their support is heard and appreciated on the pitch. “When Germany scored last Wednesday, I remember the fans were straight away singing even louder for us so you can imagine what it was like when we scored. It was electric,” said Robbie Keane.

The squad also know about the merry mayhem at home and are delighted to be the cause of it. There is just one problem with the nation’s preoccupation with the television and post-match celebrations, joked Gary Kelly.

“It’s nice to ring home after the game but the only two you get are mum and dad. No-one answers the phone any more and when I speak to my brothers, they say they can’t talk.”

As is standard practice on the day before a match, yesterday’s training session was closed to the public, but one disappointed group of Irish supporters were caught out after a night sleeping on the beach to see their heroes.

Backpacking Dubliners, Brian Mason from Donnybrook and John Reddy from Sandymount, and their friend, Glaswegian Jim Ritchie, spent the night under the stars, even though Japan’s torrential rainy season was tipped to start, in the hope of seeing the team up close before today’s big game.

“We’ll just have to wait and see them in Yokohama but they better win after this. I don’t sleep on the beach for just anyone,” said Brian.

Brian and John are among the many fans planning to extend their Asian expedition if the result goes Ireland’s way today but Jim has to go home to Vancouver where his Corkonian wife is waiting for him and their 16-year-old son, Cork-born Stephen, who is travelling with him.

“Stephen has exams. Maybe this hasn’t been the best preparation for them but we’re saying he’s been off studying world culture.”

If he’s also studying maths, he’ll know a two goal lead over Saudi will guarantee a place for Ireland in the second round although the task could be easier depending on the outcome of the Cameroon-Saudi game that will be playing simultaneously at Shizuoka.

Mick McCarthy said he wouldn’t be keeping one ear to that match, however. Despite his confidence, he doesn’t expect Saudi to lie down just because they have no hope of reaching the second round. “I won’t be listening in,” he said, “I’ve enough to be worrying about.”


H / A / N Matches W D L Goals + / -
H 0 0 0 0 0 - 0 +0
A 0 0 0 0 0 - 0 +0
N 1 1 0 0 3 - 0 +3
Total 1 1 0 0 3 - 0 +3

Date&time Comp. H / A / N Final score
11.06.2002 at 20:30 World Cup Finals N 3 - 0
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