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Pierre's World Cup Diary

TRINIDAD, TOBAGO & HISLOP!

GAME 4, GROUP B, JUNE 10, 2006 --DORTMUND
TRINIDAD & TOBAGO 0, SWEDEN 0
FINAL

The only two serious challenges Sweden had on its way to Germany--two home-away qualifying matches against Croatia--Sweden lost, 1-0 each time. Then again it won its two games against tough-playing Bulgaria, 3-0 each time. A hot-and-cold team, very young, not the powerhouse it was a couple of World Cups ago, but interesting, and not as stodgy as continental European teams. Should be fun to watch. Trinidad and Tobago? Well, it had a wonderful 2-1 victory over Mexico last October, but Mexico was assured of qualifying. Big underdog. Keep your eyes on Sweden's Larsson, who makes the case for a Nobel Prize for left-footing...

5:00...I like the pace of this game already... Sweden Free kick from just outside the area... JUST MISSED... a minute later another Sweden attack, on goal, saved.

10:00... this is good football no matter who's an overwhelming underdog: both sides are attacking, going for it, playing with joy so far, and the crowd is into it too.Sweden has never won an opening game at a world cup. What a change from the England-Paraguay match, thankfully.

Ibrahimovich, the Scandinavian Semite, tries a scissor kick for goal, nicely done but wide: it's shot after shot, run after run, and the Trinidadians seem unintimidated despite being outplayed. And what's this? Do I hear Trinidadian V.S. Naipaul rooting against his home team? No surprise there. The darker the skin, the more scared Naipaul is. Here come Sweden again, but th Trinidadian keeper, busy as a Pittsburgh steel mill in the 50s, shuts it down.

20:00... the only surprise in this match is that two or three goals haven't yet been scored. Larsson and Ibrahimovich are putting on a Broadway show to the tune of a stadium's chorus. Every minute is featuring an attack, all Sweden though.

34... Trinidad's Carlos Edwards with a rocket of a shot on goal, capping another midfield build-up for the Trinidadians, but the first that led to a satisfying result for them. Sweden meanwhile has lulled itself into a trench of tentative play, allowing the Trinidadians to get into the game, to take heart from what has been a quite solid bit of defending so far. The Trinidadians are beginning to think: Can we tie these Scandinavian giants?

38... Another wonderful attack by the Swedes, short passes, a cross up high for Larsson's sky-scraping head, which rockets the cross from Ljungberg wide... then another similar build-up ending at Wilhemlsson's foot for a fantastic shot straight on goal, and a fantastic save by the Howard University-educated Trinidadian keeper...AND ANOTHER SAVE by the keeper! Shaka Hislop, My Hero! Trinidad just put an attack together ending it with a header above the Sweden goal. For a moment it could have been 1-0 against the Norsmen. It'll be amazing enough if Trinidad takes to the locker room with a 0-0 tie at the half. Trinidad's Chris Birchall just took a sweet pass for a shot on goal: Sweden is verging on disbelief. This is like watching the United States play Brazil in 1994. And another attack by Trinidad! anothjer header wide of the goal (that extra j in "another" is the Swedish influence on my typing).

Half-time. Wonderful first half. Don't let the score deceive you. It's been full of play, great attacks by Sweden fir the first half hour, one after another, great saves by Trinidad's keeper. Eight quality shots on goal by Sweden, four by Trinidad, just two off-sides, more even ball possession than the commentators make it sound (45-55 in Sweden's favor), and in those last ten minutes or so, a surge of Caribbean fervor the Swedes certainly didn't expect. Kick up the calypso.

Second half... Oh no! Trinidad's John Avery breaks up a Sweden attack (the Swedes came out fuming) and was yellow-carded, his second of the game, resulting in his automatic ejection. The Trinidadians are down to 10 men... The Swedes' free kick from just outside the Trin's area slammed into the wall. Trinidad does not seem rattled: 50 minutes in, still strong, still attacking...

52... Sweden wants their goal, they want it, and they keep being denied. But no, the ref is being too tough on Trinidad. Much too touch. And the Swedes are taking advantage. Yet another set play, yet another free kick for the swedes... but poorly executed, if well thought out: a fake, a pass, or rather an overpass, and Swede ball sails long.

57... Excellent, excellent defending again on Trinidad's part: they're not letting Sweden pull off a shot, even though the Swedes are burrowing in the Trnidadians' penalty area like a bunch of yellow-jersey-wearing red ants... AND TRINIDAD! A fabulous shot on a breakaway, and a great Swedish save... AND ANOTHER SAVE FOR TRINIDAD! WHAT A game, what wonderful heart, what sustained quality. Hislop, the Trinidadian keeper, is 37 years old and a back-up!

61... For the first time this century, Sweden is beginning to feel some global warming under its ass, while the islands of Trinidad and Tobago have sunk an inch in the Southern Caribbean Sea from all the jubilant foot stomping...

67... Player down for Sweden: they need it. They're trying to figure out how to get out from under this Trinidadian miracle in the making, and the Trinidadians keep defending like Italians, but without the Italians' cynical dullness: they're managing a breakaway here and there. Not in the last six minutes though: it's been all Sweden, and it looks like a matter of minutes before the Swedes end this run of Caribbean wonder. AND ANOTHER HISLOP SAVE! (a little hugging and kissing between a Swede and a Trinidadian here)...Even the players are having fun.

74... Sweden can't find the way: they're inside the gates, but not inside the palace...The Trinidadians have better not start fooling around with time wasting tactics. They've already got themselves a yellow for it... and Hislop saves again! AND ANOTHER!

80... Look, it's not that the Swedes aren't playing well. They're setting up, they're probing, they're attacking, they're shooting. But Hislop has been a Maginot Line against the Swedes' traditional shots, and the Swedes haven't come up with a Hislop-buster yet. Nine minutes to the upset of the day, even if it's a draw...

85... the ball hasn't seen the Swedish half since the game's middle ages, but it's the dark ages for Sweden. Wonderful, wonderful heart from the Trinidadian defense...

87... IF THIS SCORE HOLDS UP, THEY'RE GOING TO HAVE TO RENAME THE COUNTRY: TRINIDAD, TOBAGO & HISLOP!

No! tRINIDAD WUILL BE DOWN TWO MEN FOR THE LAST 3 MINUTES. tALK ABOUT INJUIRY TIME...

and yet... they have possession!... Last attack for Sweden...

FINAL SCORE! 0-0

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