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Saturday, 25 May, 2002, 07:50 GMT 08:50 UK
Robbie Keane saves Irish blushes
Steve Staunton captained the Republic of Ireland against Hiroshima
Staunton replaced Roy Keane as captain
BBC Sport Online's Lyle Jackson

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Sanfreece Hiroshima 1-2 Republic of Ireland

The Republic of Ireland's disrupted World Cup preparations hit a fresh crisis on Saturday when two players picked up injuries.

The most serious was to Jason McAteer, who had to be carried off during the first half of the warm-up friendly fixture against Japanese club side Sanfreece Hiroshima.

There was nothing friendly about the heavy challenge which sent the Sunderland midfielder crashing to the ground with a knee injury in the 36th minute.

McAteer has not been ruled out of the tournament but there is a major doubt over whether he will be fit for the opening Group E fixture against Cameroon in 1 June.

Key incidents
35 mins: McAteer is injured by tackle from Tulio
37 mins: Hiroshima take a shock lead through Kubo
41 mins: Robbie Keane equalises for Ireland
79 mins: Robbie keane grabs the winner for Ireland
Coming after Roy Keane's departure from the squad, McAteer's absence would be a huge blow to Mick McCarthy.

The Irish manager stood loyally by McAteer while his club career was in turmoil at Blackburn.

And the former Liverpool star rewarded him with two vital goals in World Cup qualifiers against Holland.

"In the spirit of a friendly match, there was no need for a bad tackle like that," said McCarthy.

"Jason is very down in the dressing room but I have told him he will be all right and I sincerely hope he will be."

To make matters worse for the Republic, their other Sunderland player, Kevin Kilbane, limped off during the second half of Saturday's game at the Hamayama Stadium in Izumo.

The left-winger was treated for bruising to his left ankle but the injury was not as serious as McAteer's.

Jason McAteer is taken off injured
Jason McAteer was stretchered off
As for the game itself, Ireland struggled to overcome the enthusiastic challenge of Sanfreece Hiroshima.

Even without Keane, Ireland attracted a sell-out crowd of more than 10,000 for the friendly against J-League opposition.

McCarthy's men were briefly behind to a 37th minute header from the unmarked Kubo.

But Robbie Keane stooped to head the Irish level just four minutes later.

Stephen Reid, who replaced McAteer, took a corner from the left, Kilbane flicked it on and Keane headed home at the far post.

And it was the Leeds star who scored a 79th-minute winner from a knock-down by substitute striker Niall Quinn.


Teams:

Sanfreece Hiroshima: Ozaki, Kawashima, Sawada, Komano, Tulio, Nakamura, Bilong, Morisaki, Fujimoto, Kubo, Oki.

Republic of Ireland: Given (sub Kiely 61), Harte (sub O'Brien 45), Dunne (sub Breen 45) , Staunton, Kelly, Holland, Kilbane (sub Quinn 61), Kinsella, McAteer (sub Reid 37), Duff (sub Connolly 70), Robbie Keane (sub Morrison 80).

Attendance: 10,380.


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 ON THIS STORY
BBC Sport's Jonathan Overend
"Jason McAteer faces possible World Cup heartache"
Republic of Ireland captain Steve Staunton
"We're very focussed"
Republic of Ireland striker Robbie Keane
"It was a good run-out for us"
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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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