World Cup Diary
BATTLE OF CASTRO'S OLD HAUNTS
|GAME 24, GROUP D, JUNE 17, 2006 --FRANKFURT
PORTUGAL 0, IRAN 0
We all thought we had our first goal, even the guys at Univision did (the GOL sign went up) but the ball pulled a David Copperfield act on us and though it was resting on top of the net, gave us and 70 million Mexicans the leap of our afternoon. A fun start to what should be a fun game if African verve continues and Mexican intentions to make it into the last 16 puts a little fire under the 11's rears.
Lots of hurts in this game already, lots of intensity, just one shot eight minutes in: both teams know that this is their one big chance to make a statement for the next round: Mexico wins, and it's through. Angola wins, and it has a second round secured for an African nation, should it also beat Iran.
13... YES, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, the goal-post World Cup continues: Mexico just took a direct free kick from quite a way out of the box, well struck by Rafael Marquez, but straight on the far post. Mon son, who is two and a few months, is mimmicking the kick with good special effects to boot. But now he won't stop: he's got more shots on goal in the last minute than both teams in Germany have had all evening.
17... Another free kick for Mexico from outside the box, not quite handled by the Angola goalkeeper. I'm not sure I'll be able to wait until half-time for my match pilsner. Neither will my son. Strange-feeling game: no solid attacks to speak of, but a toughly fought match so far, almost, almost dominated by Mexico.
20... One more Angolan almost KO'd: Figueuredo.
27... A few shots now, four for Mexico, three for Angola, but none so threatening as to get either goalkeepers off their text-messaging their friends and moms. Not the excitement we were treated to in the previous game. Same middling game we saw when Mexico played its first game. Angola's black antelopes were more exciting in their first game against Portugal, they haven't shown the same spark here.
32... Free kick Angola, shot nicely over the defensive wall, headed above the crossbar by the great Akwa.
36...The Black Antelopes smell something good: it's Mexican fear, Mexican disbelief, Mexican mistakes. Angola just got its third corner kick (to Mexico's zero). Overshot above Akwa's towering frame.
40... I have to say it again: every time an African team has taken the field in this World Cup, we've been rewarded with enthusiasm and joy (mixed in with clusters of errors, the sort of thing that happens to teams qualifying here for first or rare times). Every time North American teams have taken the field, we've been disappointed by sub-par play, the sort of plodding footbal you might expect from college kids rather than the world's best. Maybe Canada could have salvaged the show. We're going into half-time with an Angola side that's played sloppily only for having outplayed Miexico: in the last twenty odd minutes, the ball has been mostly in the Mexican half as Angolans have been wearing down the Mexican defense.
44... Mexico almost had its 1-0 lead, denied by a last-second defense right at goal, helped by a handball and the same defender's kick-off to clear it.
Half-time fun: a terrific picture, compliments of Euridice de Angola (see album on Flickr):
Second half... Mexico must have been reamed in the locker room. Let's see if they react. Angola must have the sense that the victory is theirs to lose, the goals theirs to score. What a wonderful story that would be.
48... Mexico have just landed themselves their first corner kick of the game. They do nothing with it. The Angolans are back on the attack, each boot a derrick of productivity.
54... Some of the energy has drained out of the game, unfortunately. But Angola are pressing. And a shot! from the far corner of the Mexico box, SAVED by Mexico, then a counter-attack, and a ball headed for goal! Saved, not by the keeper but by an alert Angolan's kick-off. Great playing at both ends. We're awake again, it's a thriller in Hanover...
60... COME ON ANGOLA! Mexico has officially given up the right to win this game, Angola--if it keeps up missing the shots it keeps building toward--will be next. The momentum is still Angola's, so is the victory, if there is to be one here. A draw would not really help Angola much in the end. Five fouls in five minutes.
The Angola keeper just played a little basketball-rebounding with the football, grabbing it with one hand to make what might have been a very dangerous play, had there been anyone near him. And another save for the Angolan! That one, shot by Omar Bravo. Mexico is stepping it up. It's beginning to see the promised land.
68... Two corner kicks for Mexico, two good balls, nothing doing. Mexico is fuming, but more positively now, and the crowd is behind them. Free kick Mexico, but wasted, wasted over the wall and lobbed long.
78... An Anhgolan just got booted out of the game, drawing his second yellow for a handball that wasn't just intentional: it was volleyball. So off goes Angola's Andre, and Angola is down to ten men for the last ten minutes and then some. This game now looks fated to go Mexico's way. A silly, silly decision by Andre. I'm cancelling my dinner with him.
Kalanga, the most mellifluously named Angolan on the pitch, is out, Miloy is in, Mexico just sent a header shaving the near post, and that goal keeps getting bigger and bigger in the gods' designs for Mexico.
Approaching 85 minutes. We're watching Univision, we don't understand Spanish but we know enough what unbelievable and disbelief sound like in Spanish. These two major oil-producing nations (and major enablers of America's SUV addiction) have produced a lot of black smoke, no fire as yet. (In case you're wondering, Angola these days is 6th among nations from whom the US imports oil, ahead of Iraq and accounting for 2.4 percent of US oil imports, at 478 million barrels a day; Mexico is second, behind Canada, accounting for 8 percent of US imports, at 1.6 million barrels a day. See here for details.)
EXTRAORDINARIO! IS RIGHT: The Anglan keeper is out of this world. Just made a save that has half Mexico renouncing its belief in God and all of Angola going Lutheran. And that came on the heels of yet another goal-post strike.
One minute from the end of the game, Angola hasn;t come near to putting an attack together, Mexico is playing their hearts out--a wonder none of the players ha scollapsed--but Angola wants its one point, in an attempt to try its fortunes against Iran--another battle of the oil producers--and another save by the Angolan keeper. That should wrap it up. It's a wrap. Angola has donw aht seemed impossible, Mexico is in disbelief. Great game, and another one of those fabulous, if unlikely, 0-0 draws.