World Cup football gets under way for the first time ever in co-host Japan Saturday, with two matches. Ireland plays Cameroon in Niigata, with Saudi Arabia challenging Germany in Sapporo.
After missing the World Cup in France in 1998 and the loss of disgruntled captain Roy Keane, Ireland will have a lot to prove at the 2002 tournament. Ireland manager Mick McCarthy sent Keane home from the team's training camp on May 23, describing him as a "disruptive influence" on the rest of the team.
Ireland will try to show it is more than a one-man squad Saturday, as it faces the Indomitable Lions of Cameroon. They will be trying to improve their last performance in Japan, when they failed to advance past the opening round of the FIFA Confederations Cup last year.
In the late game, the German team will try to build on its success in the late stages of qualifying when it faces Saudi Arabia. But Germany has bit bitten by the injury bug and will be without starters Christian Vorns and Sebastian Deisler.
Germany takes on up-and coming Saudi Arabia, which is making its third consecutive appearance in the finals. The Saudis have a good blend of youth and experience and could be a contender for the second round.