Our European guru educates and enlightens
Watch out Brazil, Slovenia are coming!
That, in a nutshell, was the headline in Slovenia’s sports daily Ekipa after their triumph over Russia.
Nobody will fancy meeting this small Balkan nation in South Africa but the World Cup isn’t quite in the bag for the Slovenes yet.
The first target for Matjaz Kek will be to improve on Slovenia’s 2002 showing: P3 W0 D0 L3 F2 A7 and to avoid the sorry fate of other World Cup minnows through the ages.
Olympian feats in Chile Colombia 1962
The Chilean port Arica used to be famous as one of the driest cities on earth.
But in 1962, Colombian midfielder Marcos Coll gave the city another claim to fame when he scored the only goal straight from a corner in World Cup history.
The Colombians had qualified from a bijoux group consisting of them and Peru. After losing 2-1 to Uruguay, they sensationally drew 4-4 with the USSR.
The Soviets were 3-0 up after 11 minutes and leading 4-1 early in the second half when Coll scored from a corner – against the legendary keeper Lev Yashin – inspiring a remarkable revival as winger Marino Klinger tortured the USSR.
Los Cafeteros were then thrashed 5-0 by Yugoslavia, but Coll had made his mark in a game that L’Equipe said, a tad prematurely, marked “the end of the greatest modern goalkeeper, Lev Yashin.”
Dope, beatings and a trip to the zoo Haiti 1974
The Caribbean nation, under the thumb of dictator Jean-Claude Duvallier (aka Baby Doc), swept through the CONCACAF qualifiers like a hurricane.
Mind you, the entire campaign was played on their turf and El Salvador did have four goals disallowed in a vital game against Trinidad by a referee who was soon suspended.
Not so much the hand of God then, as the whistle of Satan.
In Germany, Haiti had a cracking start, going 1-0 up against Italy through, ironically, a classic counter attack.
Haiti’s powerful striker Emmanuel Sanon was the first player to beat Dino Zoff in 1,142 minutes of international football. But the Azzurri rallied and won 3-1.
Still on a high, the Haitians strolled around Munich zoo the next morning. But their centre-half Ernst Jean Joseph failed a dope test – he claimed the pills were for asthma.
Team morale literally took a beating after the players watched Joseph get dragged out into the car park and beaten by Haitian officials and they sunk to bottom of Group 4, losing 7-0 to Poland and 4-1 to Argentina.
Sanon, who died last year of pancreatic cancer at the age of 56, is still the only Haitian to score in a World Cup finals.
It wasn’t All-White on the night New Zealand 1982
The All Whites, one World Cup preview claimed, would show the endurance of mountain goats.
Maybe the Kiwis qualifying campaign – in which they had travelled 55,000 miles, played 15 games and scored 44 goals – wore them out because in Spain they were about as indomitable as I’m A Celebrity escapee Camilla Dallerup, losing 5-2 to Scotland, 3-0 to the USSR and 4-0 to Brazil.
The highlight of the All-Whites’ maladroit campaign was briefly coming back from 3-0 down to 3-2 against the Tartan Army.
Various members of the squad are now gainfully employed as printers, swimming pool designers and physios.
If the 2010 All Whites get a point or concede less than 12 goals, they will have made progress.
No sex please we’re in the World Cup Nigeria 1994
“It isn’t the sex that tires young players, it’s the staying up all night looking for it.”
That was how Dutch coach Clemens Westerhof described one of his challenges as he steered Nigeria to their first World Cup finals.
Westerhof was tough, happy to drop Finidi George and Emmanuel Amuneke to teach them a lesson and saw off an attempted coup by striker Rashid Yekini (who, ironically, scored his country’s first ever goal in a World Cup finals, in a 3-0 win over Bulgaria).
Nigeria played some lovely attacking football, reaching the last 16 with a 2-0 win over Greece.
As the game wore on, Westerhof got a message to Daniel Amokachi urging him to get the ball and run through the entire Greek defence.
Amo did just that to make it 2-0.
Facing Italy in the knockout round, Samson Emeke Omeruah, president of Nigeria’s football federation, decided to ramp up the hysteria, telling the Azzurri: “We’re the champions of Africa, who are you?”
Despite such crude kidology, the Nigerians came to within two minutes of the last eight.
The great Paolo Maldini defended like a donkey – he accidentally set up Amuneke’s first goal and, as the last man, should gave been sent off for hauling back Yekini.
But Roberto Baggio broke the Super Eagles’ hearts with an equaliser and a penalty that snuck in off the post.
Nigeria have never come as close to the last eight since.
Bora can’t break Peking’s duck China 2002
Bora Milutinovic, the Alan Whicker of football coaches, once cryptically observed that: “In my country, fish die in the mouth.”
His tactical instructions to his Chinese players must have been as mysterious because his willing, but limited, team lost all three games without scoring.
After two near misses in qualifying (fans had rioted in 1986 after the team blew a place in Mexico by losing 2-1 to Hong Kong), expectations were ludicrously high.
Sadly, the 10,000 fervent fans probably performed better than the team.
“Milu mania” rapidly subsided as the Chinese lost 2-0 to Costa Rica, 4-0 to Brazil and 3-0 to Turkey.
Striker Yang Chen (who played 20 games for cult German club St Pauli) came the closest to breaking China’s duck with a thunderous right foot shot that had the Turkish post wobbling.
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"The first target for Miroslav Blazevic, who led Croatia to the semis in 1998..."
Erm... Blazevic is the current manager of Bosnia...
Matjaz Kek is the Slovenian manager.
But I do agree about our world cup hopes. We seem to do well at home (at times), but away from home... Even on a neutral ground we seem to represent the away team.
I may sound ignorant for even asking but what the hell is a "pingback"?
N.e.j.c. - Correct, and our apologies. Now corrected above.
Yorugua - Pingbacks are left when blog aggregators link through to our posts (and so they should). We try to delete them – they're not very interesting to read – but we can't be everywhere at once...
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