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World Cup Diary

MEDITERRANEAN BOLERO

GAME 31, GROUP H, JUNE 19, 2006 --STUTTGART
SPAIN 3, TUNISIA 1
FINAL

3... The ball has yet to cross into Spanish territory for more than a goal kick. Odd. The commentators say it's in the lower 90s, FIFA's weather report has it at 72 and partly cloudy. This from an organization that's a more anal stickler for precision than the Vatican's once-and-future torture mechanisms.

5... It looked like a goal, but the lethal David Villa for Spain only got the side of the net in this latest of a series of Spanish probes. And still the ball has yet to see Spanish territory at the end of a Tunisian boot.

Astounding result GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOAL TUNISIA! A MISHANDLED KICK BY THE KEEPER, A BOUNCE, A REBOUND FOR GOAL!

Tunisia and Mnari earned this one: a run down the far wing where Ziad Jaziri beat what looked like half the Spanish team (actually one player, then three) on his way to the box, where he managed to cross to Mnari for the kick, it rebounded from the keeper and Mnari took it back in where it belonged. Could it be? 1-0 Tunisia.

For all that early dominance, Spain have lost their bearing here, but they've also earned themselves a direct kick at the near corner of the penalty box. There's good action in Stuttgart. Headed out by Spain's Sergio Ramos.

There's carelessness in the Spanish half: and by the keeper. Tunisia almost pulled another one out of Spanish disarray (not that that first goal had anything to do with Spanish weakness; it was skill). And there goes a Torres cross into the Tunisian box, which looked like as desertic as a subsaharan stretch of oasis-green.

18... Terrific pace to this game. We couldn't have asked for more from the Tunisian to take the wind out of Iberian sails and ensure that the Spaniards get a little panicky--for entertainment's sake. Less than a shower of Spanish goals still seems unlikely though.

Yes, but whose kiss of death?

24... Spain got a fabulous corner chance that floated in over a sea of red shorts and black hair, all for nothing.

26... The Spanish passing game is excellent: timing, touch, targets. Just no managing getting past a dogged Tunisian defense yet. But the ball is again in Tunisian territory as it was at the beginning of the game.

What the Spaniards have hoped to do to Tunisia, but so far failed; that's Spain's Fernando Torres negotiating an after-game date with Tunisia's Adel Chedli.

28... Not a smart play by Tunisia's defender, passing back to the keeper with an onrushing Spaniard behind the ball. The keeper cleared it in panic.

30... Tunisia threatening with a free kick by the box...Good shot, good save, Spanish counter-attack deflated by a Tunisian slop of the ball past the goal line, and a Spanish corner that again sails past all highly expectant manes of Spanish hair. But we have yet another free kick for Spain outside the box and the other kind of yellow the Tunisians don;t want to see today.

Good kick from Xavi, right on a Spanish head, bad header by Luis Garcia. Well... I say bad... not as if I or my 300 million neighbors could do better in a trillion years.

35... Tunisia still making runs, but now provoking the off-side flag.

43... And again a terrific goal-line save by a player! Spaion crossed in a fabulous corner, headed in for what looked like a certrain goal by Xabi Alonso, but there was Anis Ayari, reacting with perfect timing to head the ball that was coming his way as he stood at the near post. Excellent save, and we're in injury time in more ways than one for Spain.

They keep trying...

they keep falling...

they keep failing...

Spain is mowing the grass at the receiving end of Tunisian fouls...

The ref has blown his whitles, Spain are going in their locker room in disbelief, while the Tunisians are on top of their world. They should enjoy it. It might not last.

 

half-time...

46... When even the referee crosses himself on field, whatever Enlishtenment lingers on the face of the western world is in trouble.

49... Spain begin the second half the way they began the first, keeping the ball in the Tunisian half and dominating possession. They've had their fill of caffeine, but still: no real go at goal. And another Tunisian steal. Tunisian tackles are being double-teamed.

55... Spanish desperation for a strike: last of three substitutes walking in. The dangerous Villa is out. Joaquin is in. Too many stoppages at the moment. Virtually two minutes have gone by without a ball in play. Tunisia makes yet another substitution as we approach the 60 minute mark, at which point the Tunisians will think clamp-down.

62... Joaquin forces the corner with legs as fresh as Ben & Jerry's Iberian Siberian.

65... Fernando Torres just cannot, cannot get past Tunisian stilts. The ball is stuck in Tunisian territory. It seems impossible that more of these attacks, and more of Tunisia's unwillingness to take it into Spanish territory, won't yield some result for the Spaniards. A draw would be a dud though. Not the sort of thing either inquisitors or jihadis would settle for, you'd think.

71....GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOAL SPAIN, ON ANOTHER REBOUND

It was a fabulous set up job, Joaquin down the far wing deep, dribbling his way in against a Tunisian defender who could do nothing, then a pass that a Spanish player superbly faked over to let it go on to its intended receiver--Raul, at the edge of the box, knocing it from under a Tunisian defender, the ball bounced off the keeper amd Raul took his own rebound for a smash into the upper right corner of goal and the belated equalizer. The furies are standing down, the joy is returning... as with this latest attack and shot saved barely by the Tunisian keeper's boot.

76...... GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOAL TORRES, SPAIN 2-1!

An incredible, incredible display by Fabregas and Torres: Fabregas fro0m midfield sending the ball in a diagonal lft to right onto an rushing Torres, who read the ball perfectlt as he ran right to left all the way into the box, where he simply and cheekily and devilishly flicked the ball with his right foot above a diving keeper. The ball found net and Tunisian disbelief. But you have to admit: a wonderful goal.

And the deft passing game continues.

Not even that can save the Tunisians now.

Glanced in the stands, amid a sea of fibrillating Spanish flags: an Argentinian flag, as if to say: this world cup is fated to see an encounter between the two powers. And at this point one must admit: before these torrid players, the Brazilians, as we've seen them, don't stand very much of a chance--to say nothing of the absent French, the mottled English, the manageable Italians.

88... Spain could have had their thid goal, it was man-on-man but this time the Tunisian keeper won.

Penalty!

90...GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOAL TORRES, SPAIN 3-0

The keeper had it on his hands, but let it skim by. Was the penalty deserved? Many a ref has let that sort of grabbing at the shiort and stumbling in the box go by even in this over-refereed World Cup.

In the end, Spain owned it.

 

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