The all-time World Cup

April 19th 2005
Munich, Olympia Stadion
1-2 (1-0)

      GOALS                   11'  1-0  Mark Lawrenson
                              69'  1-1  Raymond Braine
                              84'  1-2  Jan Ceulemans

      REFEREE                 Said Belqola (Morocco)

      ATTENDANCE              78,000

      YELLOW CARDS            Aldridge, Irwin, McGrath (IRE)
                              Thissen, Gerets, Dewalque (BEL)

      RED CARDS               Dewalque (BEL)

      IRELAND (Coach: Jack Charlton, system 4-4-2)

       1 Pat Bonner
       3 John Carey                      (-76)
       4 Mark Lawrenson
      12 David O'Leary
       2 Dennis Irwin
       8 John Giles                      (-73)
       5 Paul McGrath
      13 Billy Whelan
       7 Liam Brady (captain)
       9 John Aldridge                   (-81)
      10 Don Givens

      11 Steve Heighway                  (+73)
      18 Tony Cascarino                  (+76)
      20 Niall Quinn                     (+81)

      BELGIUM (Coach: Guy Thijs, system 4-3-3)

       1 Christian Piot
       2 Eric Gerets                     (-48)
       3 Armando Swartenbroeks (captain)
      16 Nico Dewalque
      19 Jean Thissen
       8 Wilfried Van Moer
      11 Jan Ceulemans                   (-78)
       7 René Vandereycken
      14 Raymond Braine
       9 Jef Mermans
      10 Rik Coppens                     (-86)

      12 Bob Paverick                    (+48)
       6 Frank Vercauteren               (+78)
      18 Louis Carré                     (+86)


    With influential captain Roy Keane out because of the red card he had received against France, Ireland faced the task of beating Belgium in their last group match. Of course they had confidence in their own abilities and were convinced that they could put Belgium under such pressure, that the Red Devils would break down. Coach Charlton moved Paul McGrath from defence to midfield to make up for the loss of Keane. In defence now Mark Lawrenson got a place. Two strikers again for Ireland and Charlton chose Aldridge and Givens to do the damage. In the Belgian team sweeper Laurent Verbiest was cautioned twice in the earlier matches and wasn't available. Nico Dewalque stood in. Coach Thijs again left big star Van Himst on the bench. He had been very satisfied with the performance of threesome Braine, Mermans and Coppens and decided to leave it that way.

    The Olympia Stadion witnessed one of the most emotional matches in the competition until this moment. The Irish gave it all during the full 90 minutes, Belgium wouldn't give in and the result was a fierce game, at a magnificent speed, with some brutal fouls but also with great play. Ireland used John Aldridge as their targetman and Charlton expected his midfielders to join him up front whenever possible. Stand-in captain Liam Brady, Billy Whelan and Johnny Giles got through an enormous amount of work and covered many kilometres. Ceulemans and Van Moer, though both were able to run for the full distance themselves, had a tough time and Vandereycken had to break into all his tactical insight to prevent himself from being overrun. All in all Ireland were the better team in the beginning.

    It led to a fabulous shot by Giles that struck the underside of the bar behind Christian Piot. It was a kind of "1966 Wembley Goal" but this time the referee and linesman had seen no goal. But minutes later the bells rang. Brady's free kick from the right was headed in by Mark Lawrenson. Piot had no chance on the low ball that went in from the post: 1-0. Belgium answered with an attack by Raymond Braine. The skillful outside right, already successful against France, dribbled past Irwin but his cross was defended into corner by Lawrenson. From the following corner Belgium created new danger but after a heavy scrimmage Pat Bonner ended up as the winner. In the meantime it was a real fight and before the first 30 minutes were over Aldridge and Irwin had received a yellow card from referee Belqola, as well as Thissen and Gerets on the side of Belgium.

    Play kept on going up and down the field for the rest of the first half and just before the break Ireland got the ultimate chance to double the lead. Nico Dewalque couldn't follow Don Givens and tripped him from behind, just inside the box. Belqola pointed to the spot. Dennis Irwin, who had converted a penalty against Chile, was the man to pull the triggger again but Christian Piot chose the right corner. The shot came half high but Piot brilliantly was there in time and tipped it to corner.

    That was a fatal moment for Ireland and from that moment on Belgium were the better team. Mentally and physically strong they were able to put Ireland under pressure. The Irish had given a lot during the first 45 minutes, still tried to hang on but it appeared that Belgium had the better players. They knew they had to score at least once and though coach Thijs had to replace injured Eric Gerets with Bob Paverick they became stronger and stronger. Belgium were chasing Ireland all over the pitch now. Ceulemans, Vandereycken and Van Moer now didn't allow their opponents to squeeze through. And chances came, too. Mermans headed towards goal, Bonner kept it out. McGrath deflected a shot from Coppens, it went just wide. Soon after a blast from Thissen went over the bar, Bonner would have had no chance. The equalizer was never far away and it came in the 69th minute.

    It was Braine who tore the Irish wall down. And he did it in a way that looked like how he scored against France. Put free by Van Moer he penetrated into the box and scored at the first post. It looked as if Bonner could have done better. The match seemed to go the other way when Givens broke through after a great pass by Liam Brady, Ireland's best player this night. The striker went towards goal with only Piot to beat, but was fouled from behind by Dewalque. Belqola could do nothing else than send the sweeper off. All that left Ireland was a free kick but Brady found the fists of Piot on his way. Chance gone, possible win and qualification gone.

    Belgium could play for a draw but still chose to try for all three points. Despite being a man down they were now on top and unlike many Belgian teams in the past, preferred the attack over defence. And based on their better performance in the second half they deserved the win. And when 6 minutes from time Ceulemans, after a fine move by Vandereycken and a great pass, found a way through O'Leary and McGrath to beat Bonner with a low shot, Belgium could start partying. Though Charlton had brought three strikers in the last 15 minutes Ireland couldn't find their way through the strong Belgian defence. The win was an impressive one for Thijs' men and Belgium had fought themselves back into the tournament after losing the first match against France. Finishing second in the group Belgium would travel to Paris for an appointment with the winner of group H, most likely Brazil, still a horse of another colour. Ireland left the tournament with their heads up high, they had done everything they could, but in the end France and Belgium were the better teams.

    Next Friday we will have the last two games in group H. Brazil are still not 100% sure of the next round despite convincing throughout their first two matches. They play Northern Ireland in Yokohama. Needless to say that the Irish, on three points after beating Cameroon, need a win. Brazil will most likely play with a lot of the second choice players, but with guns like Jairzinho, Zico and Romario in your team you would still be among the favourites. Even Cameroon, though they have a disastreous goal difference, can still reach the secound round. If they beat Portugal they will finish on three points, just like the Portuguese and most likely Northern Ireland. Just the goal difference would be decisive then. Cameroon are without suspended Geremi but are in a good mood and will try what they can. Portugal are convinced they will reach the second round, did well so far and coach Gloria isn't expected to change much. Northern Ireland-Brazil will have Gottfried Dienst as referee. In Montevideo, where Portugal and Cameroon meet, John Langenus is in charge.


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