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T&T explosion shakes group B

/UK Times, June 10, 2006

FORTUNE tellers were out and about in Dortmund. A mock British newspaper match report hung as an advert in the newsagent's at the station declared the score on June 20 to be England 1, Sweden 0. In one of the colossal stands here at Dortmund's stadium, blondes walked the concourses with shirts proclaiming "SWEDEN 2 ENGLAND 2 - AGREED".

They might need to rethink the score because a draw might not be enough now. T&T? More like TNT threatening to explode Sweden's chances of making the second round.

You didn't see anyone predicting this: that Trinidad and Tobago would hold out, ballsy and brilliant and with ten men for almost the entire second half, to claim an implausible draw that justified all the positive slogans and sunshine smiles belonging to the Trinidad support that has already vivified and enhanced this nascent World Cup.

The fans slapped steel drums; the players' nerves were made of the same metal. True, it was one of those days for Sweden - one of those days when all your best chances fall to Marcus Allback, the hapless former Aston Villa striker.

Still, it took outstanding goalkeeping from Shaka Hislop and superb defending from Brent Sancho (Gillingham) and Dennis Lawrence (Wrexham) to produce this point in front of red-clad Soca Warriors supporters who waved flags and cheered everything their team did, big or small.

Dwight Yorke, a holding midfield player these days - to ease the pressure on his weary legs and because of a fear that if he were up front, the other players might not be good enough to get him the ball - was man of the match but this was a collective triumph.

Include the coach Leo Beenhakker in that, because his bravery in playing two up front, switching to 4-3-2 after Avery John was unluckily given a second yellow card early in the second half, was a masterstroke.

Trinidad lumped it long but had two men to aim at who were strong enough and quick enough to meet the ball and hold it up, giving the defence breathing space between attacks. The presence of a second attacker in Cornell Glen, a substitute, also dissuaded Sweden from committing more men forward until near the end, too late.

Sweden were not great, but Freddie Ljungberg, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Henrik Larsson and Christian Wilhelmsson ought to have been able to outdo a team filled with players from second-, third- or fourth-rate sides in the Scottish and English leagues.

This outcome will give Sven-Goran Eriksson pause for thought ahead of England's match against T&T.

Eriksson always proffers cautions along the lines of "vell... there are no easy games," and in this instance he could be right, though it is clear that an early England goal would probably cause T&T to unravel, and if England's strikers are more accurate than Sweden's, and T&T's defenders a fraction less obdurate, then this will be three points for the group favourites.

Earlier in the day, while England toiled in Frankfurt, hundreds of T&T fans spilled out of the station to drink rum, beer and cocktails in Dortmund's streets in Caribbean-type weather. They'll be partying again tonight; but then they would have regardless of the score.

They exude a "just happy to be here" vibe; few could in truth have expected the football itself to broaden their grins. It would be wonderful for the tournament if their side somehow, miraculously, managed to extend their sta

y.
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