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Wednesday, 5 June, 2002, 18:11 GMT 19:11 UK
Robbie is the main man
Irish players celebrate after Robbie Keane's equalising goal
Keane is buried by his team mates after his goal
BBC Sport Online's Lyle Jackson

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Guess which Keane they are all talking about now?

He might not be able to get into the Leeds United side, but Robbie Keane scored the goal which kept Ireland's World Cup dream alive.

Tokyo, where thousands of Irish fans are based, will not know what has hit it as the party is sure to go on and on.

The Republic seemed to be heading to a 1-0 defeat to Germany in Ibaraki.

But in the most dramatic of finishes, Irish passion undid German precision.

Rudi Voeller's side were just one minute away from becoming the first team to qualify for the last 16 knock-out stage.

Cartwheels

Oliver Khan had shown why he has been voted the best goalkeeper in the world.

He brought off some great saves from Keane and Damien Duff and it looked as if it was to be disappointment for Ireland.

But in the final minute the new 'Keano' blasted into the net and set off on one of his familiar series of celebratory cartwheels.

The Germans were stunned, the Irish ecstatic.

Manager Mick McCarthy and the rest of the Republic bench were jumping in the air.

A couple of minutes later they were all arm-in-arm with the players taking a well-deserved bow.

Because Ireland deserved their point, one which gives them a real chance of progressing to Korea for the last 16 stage.

Ireland's goal-scoring hero Robbie Keane
Robbie Keane waves to the fans after the game

If they beat Saudi Arabia in the final group game next Tuesday, they will have beaten the three points Jack Charlton's boys got in Italia '90.

They will have even beaten the four points earned in the United States eight years ago.

The Republic have a real chance now and it was given to them by Robbie Keane, the player who came so close to a winner against Cameroon.

The magnificent Irish support, present in Niigata for that game, was out in force again, high-spirited and full of optimistic expectation.

Outside the Kashima Stadium, they saw a statue of Brazilian legend Zico, an idol in these parts as he played for and coached the local J-League club Kashima Antlers.

The Republic of Ireland side do not possess anyone of that world class standing, but the supporters in green were hoping for another committed team performance.

Awesome

If the strength of McCarthy's ''all for one'' side was indeed greater than the sum of its parts, now was the time to show it.

Because they do not come any bigger than this, Ireland's first competitive fixture against the awesome Germans.

Germany took early control thanks to Miroslav Klose, who had headed a hat-trick against Saudi Arabia in Germany's opening game.

It was another header this time, beating an exposed Shay Given in the 19th minute.

But Ireland produced several reminders that the German defence could be breached.

A Duff run, a Matt Holland shot and an attempted overhead by Keane were reminders that Germany's defence could be breached.

An outstanding save by Kahn denied Duff early in the second half, but it saw the Irish spirits rise again.

''Come on your boys in green'' sang the fans.

Then, at the other end Carsten Jancker missed a great chance.

If he had scored, it would surely have been curtains for the Republic.

They had never scored more than one goal in their 11 previous games at World Cup finals.

Game number 12 also brought just one goal. But it was a precious one.

One which Republic of Ireland fans will celebrate with typical gusto.

They wanted to stay on, but after repeated ''please leave the stadium announcements'' and some gentle ushering by the police, they headed off to raise a glass to the boys in green.

The bars in Tokyo are assured of record takings.


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 ON THIS STORY
Ireland coach Mick McCarthy
"We battered the Germans"
Irish striker Damien Duff
"It is an unbelievable feeling"
Ireland midfielder Matt Holland
"It is no more than we deserved"
Irish defender Gary Kelly
"It was just outstanding"
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GROUP E
  P GD PTS
GERMANY 3 +10 7
IRELAND 3 +3 5
CAMEROON 3 -1 4
SAUDI ARABIA 3 -12 0




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