Ireland Shocks Champion Germany

HANOVER, Germany -- Ireland upset Germany's World Cup preparations when they sent the world champions crashing to their first defeat at home for six years with a 2-0 victory. A 31st minute header from Chelsea striker Tony Cascarino and a 68th-minute strike from substitute Gary Kelly gave Ireland a shock victory Sunday over the Germans just three weeks before the start of the World Cup finals. It was the Germans' first loss on home soil since falling 2-1 to the Netherlands in the semifinals of the 1988 European Championship and Ireland's first win over Germany for 34 years. Although both goals came against the run of play, Germany, fielding five of the team that contested the 1990 World Cup final, looked very ordinary for much of the encounter and frustrated the home fans in the 50,000 crowd. After defeating the Netherlands 1-0 on Dutch soil last month, Ireland showed what difficult opponents they are going to be in the United States where they meet Italy, Norway and Mexico in Group E. The Irish last beat the Germans 1-0 in D--sseldorf on May 11, 1960. Germany coach Berti Vogts will not forget Sunday's defeat in a hurry. His team failed to find a way past some tight Irish marking and often looked tactically inept, floating high crosses into the Irish penalty area which were easily cleared by the visitors' defense marshaled by Aston Villa's Paul McGrath. Ireland pressed the Germans in all areas of the field in the first half hour. The world champion, deprived of a space in midfield, struggled to find any rhythm and looked nervous at the back. Apart from two long-range efforts from midfielder Mario Basler in the fifth and 19th minutes, Vogts' team had few goalscoring chances despite having most of the game. But the Irish turned the game around on a rare venture into the German half in the 31st minute. Jason McAteer floated in a speculative cross from the right that German defender J--rgen Kohler failed to reach and Cascarino nodded the ball home at the far post. German midfielder Thomas Strunz forced Irish goalkeeper Alan Kelly to tip the ball over the bar in a brilliant save in the 39th minute but the dissatisfied crowd whistled the Germans into the dressing rooms at halftime. The Germans stormed forward after the interval but strikers J--rgen Klinsmann and Karlheinz Riedle failed to find space in the tight Irish defense. Even veteran forward Rudi V?ller, who came on as a substitute for Riedle in his first appearance in a national shirt since 1992, failed to improve matters. In another Irish breakaway Kelly, who came on at the start of the second half, hit a left-footed shot from the edge of the area which took a deflection off German midfielder Martin Wagner into the net with German keeper Bodo Illgner stranded.The Irish fans started singing "Always look on the bright side of life" with 15 minutes to go as the celebrations began. Although the Germans have had poor performances prior to previous World Cups before lifting their form at the right time, they will find it difficult to take the joke so close to the June 17 kick-off in the United States. Vogts' team continue their build-up with another friendly against Austria on Thursday before meeting Canada in Toronto on June 8 in their last test before the finals. Vogts said he was happy his team had lost in the friendly rather than when his team open the World Cup against Bolivia in their first Group C match in Chicago on June 17. "We wanted to leave Germany on a positive note but the Irish showed how you can be successful with basic tactics," he said. "It was not a good match. I expected the midfield to be better and to create more chances. But I'm happy that the defeat came today rather than on June 17." Ireland's English coach Jack Charlton said too much should not be read into the result.