Saturday, June 10, 2006

The smallest country ever to participate in the world cup meets a European giant. Moreover, the islanders are coached by a Dutchman, Leo Beenhakker. Still the nerves are tense, Sweden is an established soccer nation. Many islanders will remember the 7-0 loss against Mexico, and fear that playing with the big boys will come with some big losses. Nevertheless they made it so far, just maybe a few lucky 'punters' will collect a big payout on their two thousand to one shot on Trinidad and Tobago taking the world cup back home to the island. The Swedes are their first obstacle.
The Swedes with ten WC participations; third in the States in 1994 and even runner up in 1956; come on the field expecting to win. Coach Lars Lagerback does not accept a loss. With England in the group, a loss against the weakest of the group, maybe even of the whole tournament, would drop like a bomb. Even a draw would cause tremendous mental damage in the Swedish capital, Stockholm.
The crowd is chanting and cheering, the Swedish side is confident. And one minute in the game, it looks like it is going to be a shoot-out for Sweden. From within the penalty box fire the Swedes on the islanders target. But, no goal.
In the third minute the number three of Sweden shoots the ball, from a free kick, with great velocity next to the crowded islanders wall, and next to the goal.
But Trinidad get some control back, even creating chances. The keeper of Sweden touches the ball for the first time in the sixth minute when he catches a long ball of Trinidad and Tobago.
The Swedes counter the same minute, with a shot on goal. That is what the islanders are missing, although their attacks are getting more and more structured.
The Swedish even fall back to the strategy of countering as the ball spends more time on the Swedish half of the pitch. But when they counter, they sting. In the 21st minute a long ball to the right, followed by a fast pass to the middle, and the Swedish striker missed the ball by a toe length.

Trinidad and Tobago keep making attacks, they make it a real game. However, they fail to have shots on the goal, maybe Leo can work on that in the break.
"The Dutch coaches are hot items, and here we see why," says the commentator.
I smile.
The Swedish keep giving the islanders dangerous shots on target. Only to be saved by a hard working keeper of Trinidad and Tobago. Nevertheless, they go score-less to the locker rooms for the break.

The second half, the Swedish start attacking in high tempo, and star player 'John' of Trinidad needs to defend harder then allowed.
Yellow card, his second for the game, thus red. Trinidad has to go on with ten men. But they persist in looking dangerous at times, nerving the Swedish fans more and more.
The Swedes create the best chances, with the best shot on goals. But the keeper of Trinidad plays like a giant, saving numerous shots. His reaction is superb. In the 58th minute a striker of Trinidad places a hard shot on the crossbar, nearly crowning this miracle. Leo is a happy man as the team of the smallest nation ever to qualify holds the Swedes off to the end.
"A disappointing Sweden," says the commentator. True, but what a baffling performance of Trinidad and Tobago. The world cup dream goes to the Islands, and Stockholm cries.