Russia v Tunisia
Kobe Wing Stadium (capacity: 42,000)
Group H – Kobe, Japan – 3:30 p.m. ET local time
U.S. Television Information: Live on ESPN2 at 2:25 a.m. ET
The second to last game of the first round kicks off between two teams that are still relatively unknown on the international soccer level. The draw put both of these teams in one of the most balanced groups, and both have hopes of seeing the second round – and the opening 2-2 draw between Japan and Belgium will only help.
It may be hard to believe, but Tunisia has now qualified for two straight World Cups, the same streak that England and France bring to the tournament. At the 1998 World Cup, Tunisia recorded one draw and two losses, drawing 1-1 with Romania and losing 1-0 to Colombia and 2-0 to England. Their only goal of that tournament came from the penalty spot.
The Tunisians had a rough run up to the World Cup, as coach Henri Michel quit in March and shortly thereafter goalkeeper Chokri El Quaer retired due to injury. Just prior to his retirement, Michel led Tunisia to a scoreless draw with Korea.
Russia is waiting to see if star playmaker Alexander Mostovoi will be fit in time for the opener. Mostovi plays professionally for Celta Vigo in Spain. With or without Mostovi, Russia will still look to Vladimir Beschastnykh for goals. In qualifying Russia was led by Beschastnykh’s eight goals (almost half of Russia’s 18 qualifying goals).
The former Soviet Union qualified for four straight World Cups from 1958-1970, and three more from 1982-1990 (before advancing in 1994 as Russia).
FIFA Ranking: 24th (tied)
2002 World Cup qualifying: Won UEFA “Group 1” (7-1-2; 18 GF, 5 GA)
World Cup final appearances: 9 – 1958 (7th), 1962 (6th), 1966 (4th), 1970 (5th), 1982 (7th), 1986 (10th), 1990 (17th), 1994 (18th), 2002
Overall Record in WC: 16-12-6
Manager: Oleg Romantsev (RUS)
Championship Honors: 1960 European Cup champion; 1956 & 1988 Olympic champions (all as Soviet Union)
1-Rusian Nigmatullin, 12-Stanislav Cherchesov, 23-Alexander Filimonov, 2-Yuri Kovtun, 3-Yuri Nikiforov, 5-Andrei Solomatin, 7-Viktor Onopko, 13-Vyacheslav Dayev, 14-Igor Chugainov, 18-Dmitry Sennikov, 4-Alexei Smertin, 6-Igor Semshov, 8-Valeri Karpin, 9-Yegor Titov, 10-Alexandr Mostovoi, 15-Dmitri Alenichev, 17-Sergei Semak, 20-Marat Izmailov, 21-Dmitri Khokhlov, 11-Vladimir Beschastnykh, 16-Alexander Kerzhakov, 19-Rusian Pimenov, 22-Dmitry Sychev
FIFA Ranking: 29th
2002 World Cup qualifying: Won Africa “Group 4” (6-0-2; 23 GF, 4 GA)
World Cup final appearances: 3 – 1978 (13th), 1998 (26th), 2002
Overall Record in WC: 1-3-2
Managers: Ammar Souyah, Khemaies Laabidi
1-Ali Boumnjiel, 16-Hassen Bejaoui, 22-Habib Jaouachi, 2-Khaled Badra, 4-Mohamed Mkacher, 6-Hatem Trabelsi, 12-Raouf Bouzaiene, 14-Hamdi Marzouki, 15-Radhi Jaidi, 17-Tarek Thabet, 19-Emir Mkademi, 3-Zoubaier Baya, 8-Hassen Gabsi, 10-Kais Ghodhbane, 13-Riadh Bouazizi, 18-Slim Benachour, 23-Clayton, 5-Zied Jaziri, 7-Imed Mhedhebi, 9-Riadh Jelassi, 11-Adel Sellimi, 20-Ali Zitouni, 21-Mourad Melki.
Germany v Ireland
Prefectural Kashima Stadium (capacity: 41,800)
Group E - Ibaraki, Japan – 8:30 p.m. ET local time
U.S. Television Information: Live on ESPN2 at 7:25 a.m. ET
Germany and Ireland have met 13 times previously, but never have in the World Cup. Germany leads the all-time series 6-5-2, but Ireland pulled off a shock 2-0 win in Hannover the last time the two teams met. The win was Ireland’s first win over Germany since 1960.
The U.S. played both of these teams in Europe this year, losing 4-2 in Germany and 2-1 in Ireland.
Germany was perhaps the most impressive team in their opener, pounding Saudi Arabia 8-0 behind a hat trick from Miroslav Klose.
A Germany win against Ireland would nearly cinch their spot in the second round, while putting Ireland in must-win situation for their final group match against Saudi Arabia.
Ireland, on the other hand, struggled to earn a 1-1 draw with an impressive Cameroon team. Matt Holland scored an outstanding goal in the 55th minute to even the score after Patrick Mboma put Cameroon ahead, finishing off a brilliant individual effort from Samuel Eto'o.
After struggling in the first half, Ireland turned it up a notch in the second. Robbie Keane had two great chances to give Ireland a second goal, but the little forward couldn’t find the target.
These two European nations have vastly different World Cup experiences, with Ireland making just their third World Cup appearance, while Germany has won three World cups and have qualified for their 15th overall World Cup finals (second to Brazil’s 17 appearances). Germany is the only country to make it to the championship game in three consecutive World Cups (1982 to 1990), something Brazil can match this year if they reach the World Cup final.
FIFA Ranking: 12th
2002 World Cup qualifying: Finished second in UEFA “Group 9” (5-1-2; 14 GF, 10 GA); defeated Ukraine in home-and-home playoff 5-2 on aggregate score.
World Cup final appearances: 15 – 1934 (3rd), 1938 (10th), 1954 (1st), 1958 (4th), 1962 (7th), 1966 (2nd), 1970 (3rd), 1974 (1st), 1978 (6th), 1982 (2nd), 1986 (2nd), 1990 (1st), 1994 (5th), 1998 (7th), 2002
Overall Record in WC: 45-16-17
Manager: Rudi Voller (GER)
Championship Honors: 1954, 1974 & 1990 World Cup champions; 1972, 1980 & 1996 European Cup champions
1-Oliver Kahn, 2-Thomas Linke, 3-Marko Rehmer, 4-Frank Baumann, 5-Carsten Ramelow, 6-Christian Ziege, 7-Oliver Neuville, 8-Dietmar Hamann, 9-Carsten Jancker, 10-Lars Ricken, 11-Miroslav Klose, 12-Jens Lehmann, 13-Michael Ballack, 14-Gerald Asamoah, 15-Sebastian Kehl, 16-Jens Jeremies, 17-Marco Bode, 18-Joerg Boehme, 19-Bernd Schneider, 20-Oliver Bierhoff, 21-Christoph Metzelder, 22-Torsten Frings, 23-Hans-Joerg Butt
FIFA Ranking: 18th (Tied)
2002 World Cup Qualifying: Finished Second In Uefa “Group 2” (7-0-3; 23 Gf, 5 Ga); Defeated Iran In UEFA/Asian Home-And-Home Playoff 2-1 On Aggregate Score.
World Cup Final Appearances: 3 – 1990 (9th), 1994 (16th), 2002
Overall Record In WC: 1-3-5
Manager: Mick Mccarthy (IRE)
1-Shay Given, 2-Steve Finnan, 3-Ian Harte, 4-Kenny Cunningham, 5-Steve Staunton, 6-Roy Keane, 7-Jason Mcateer, 8-Matt Holland, 9-Damien Duff, 10-Robbie Keane, 11-Kevin Kilbane, 12-Mark Kinsella, 13-David Connolly, 14-Gary Breen, 15-Richard Dunne, 16-Dean Kiely, 17-Niall Quinn, 18-Gary Kelly, 19-Clinton Morrison, 20-Andy O'brien, 21-Steven Reid, 22- Lee Carsley, 23-Alan Kelly