Football: Sad England go home

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WHILE THE Republic of Ireland booked their place in the second round of the World Youth Championship in Nigeria with a 4-0 victory against Australia on Saturday, hapless England are on their way home after last night's 2-0 defeat to Japan.

England finished bottom of their first-round group and were the only side in the entire tournament not to score a goal. They were one of three teams, along with Honduras and Kazakhstan, to lose all three first-stage games.

In last night's game in Bauchi, Japan opened the scoring in the 40th minute with Tatsuya Ishikawa's goal from a free-kick. Shinji Ono lobbed in the second from the edge of the penalty area in the 49th minute.

Apart from a first-half effort by Stephen Wright, which was disallowed for a foul on the goalkeeper, England rarely looked like scoring. Adding to their gloom, the Charlton Athletic midfielder Kevin Nicholls was sent off for a second bookable offence near the end.

In Ibadan on Saturday, the Millwall striker Richard Sadlier opened the scoring for the Republic of Ireland in the 20th minute. The Blackburn winger Damien Duff, the Huddersfield midfielder Tom Heary and Garry Crossley completed the scoring in the second half.

Six points was enough to put the Irish, who lost their opening game 1- 0 to Mexico but then beat Saudi Arabia 2-0, through to the second round of the three-week tournament after qualifying from their group. The Republic will play the hosts, Nigeria, in the second round on Wednesday.

Nigeria's coach, Olatunde Disu, was sacked just minutes after his team lost 2-1 to Paraguay. Disu, who had coached the Nigerian Under-20 team on and off for 10 years, is to be replaced by the country's senior team coach, Thijs Libregts.

Nigerian fans and riot police clashed on Saturday night in Lagos following the 2-1 loss to Paraguay. Police, many on horseback and using whips or bamboo-type canes, waded in against fans who hurled bottles and cans at the Nigerian team bus as it left the National Stadium after the match.

Nigeria only managed to qualify for the second round thanks to the result of the final fixture in their group, played later on Saturday night in the same stadium. Costa Rica surprisingly beat Germany 2-1, which meant the hosts progressed and the Germans were eliminated.

Yesterday Portugal and Uruguay spent 90 minutes watching each other pass the ball around as they drew 0-0, a result which put both sides through. Brazil overwhelmed Zambia 5-1 to cruise into the second round. Zambia were the only African team to go out while all but one of the seven Latin American sides qualified.