World Cup rocks the globe

The late matches at the World Cup start at 9pm here in Southern Africa and that means those who are watching them might not sleep until well around midnight every day.

Angola’s debut tie at the World Cup finals against Portugal started at 9pm and millions of Zimbabweans watched it hoping that the Negras Palancas would score a dream victory over their former colonial masters.

The Angolans lost the game 0-1 but not before they had given a good account of themselves and contained a world-class team featuring the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Luis Figo.

Zambian legend Kalusha Bwalya is a member of the special Fifa technical team that is in Germany to give an assessment of all the matches.

The following is his observation about the brave Angolans’ debut show at the World Cup finals.

“The crucial strike came in the early minutes before the Angola defence had really settled down.

“When Luis Figo got possession of the ball there was only one thing on his mind.

“He went past a defender and cut the ball back perfectly for Pauleta, for what would turn out to be the only goal of the match.

“Portugal continued to be dangerous in the first half, in which the interchange between Simao (Sabrosa) and Cristiano Ronaldo worked particularly well.

“Figo was given more of a free role with Pauleta playing as the lone attacker.

“After the goal Angola did come back into the match, showing great spirit and they slowly started to show their physical presence.

“They had a few long-range efforts that could have caused damage.

“The pace of the game was fast so it seemed like it would continue to be an open game in the second half, but things changed.

“Portugal came out with a more cautious approach and appeared happy to pass the ball around in areas that were not too harmful.

“At the same time, Angola pressurised the player in possession much more in the second half and pushed more men into midfield, which neutralised Portugal’s attacks.

“It meant the game became more congested with fewer scoring opportunities.

“Only Figo, with his wonderful ball skills, continued to think about attacking.

“Ultimately, Portugal have three points and they can go on from there. For Angola, who finished quite strongly, they can look forward to the next games.”

Bwalya is a coach who could have been in the dugout in Germany is Zambia had qualified for the World Cup finals.

Instead it was another homegrown solution – Luis Oliviera Gonclaves – who took his country to the World Cup showcase by guiding Angola to the Promised Land.

Gonclaves is highly respected in Angola and he believes his team did well at the grand stage despite the defeat.

“I think we played well. Portugal started the game well and forced us into a terrible mistake,” he told

“In the second half, we tried to be more positive because we thought we could put them under pressure and look to snatch a goal.

“Both teams deserve credit for a good performance, but I’m proud of my players.

“We had done our homework on Portugal and like every other team they have their weaknesses.

“We tried to keep their key players quiet, and I think we were largely successful, apart from the goal.

“I thought that we looked in good shape, and we are here to improve as a team with every match we play.

“I don’t think that Portugal played badly; I think that Angola played well. We are the underdogs in this group, and what we want to do is make things difficult for all of our opponents.”

The whole world appears to have been charmed by Angola – especially against the background that not long ago this was a country that was being ravaged by a terrible civil war that had raged on for decades.

“Sunday was an historic and unforgettable day for Angolan sport,” declared

“As the nation’s footballers made their bow on the biggest stage of them all, the former Portuguese colony witnessed one of the greatest days in their recent history.

“Not even a narrow defeat could spoil their magic moment.

“A match that was destined to be a special event was made even more so by the historical ties between the two sporting adversaries.

“After the game, players from both sides emerged from the dressing rooms together, embraced each other and discussed the ins and outs of.

“The mutual respect of the players, forged through familiarity in the Portuguese league, was plain for all to see.

“On the pitch, however, Luis Goncalves’ men refused to be cowed by their illustrious opponents, even though Portugal in the end made their experience count.

“But the Africans were there to show what they could do, and although it is never a pleasure to lose such a big game, they knew that winning is not always possible either.

“They battled hard, and threw everything at the Portuguese defence.

“And much as they put in a Herculean effort over the 90 minutes, the players took a phlegmatic view of proceedings afterwards.

“After all, they are sharing a stage with the giants of the global game and they are relishing the opportunity. “

Even the Australians, known for their rugby and cricket prowess, are relishing their place in the sun at the World Cup finals.

The Australians waited until midnight to watch their team’s historic World Cup finals match against Japan on Monday.

The Socceroos came back from a goal down to score three goals in the last six minutes of their tie against Japan in Oehringen with Everton striker Tim Cahill scoring twice in dramatic fashion.

With the afternoon match starting at 3pm, it meant that it was about midnight in Australia and by the time that it finished they were well into the early hours of the following day.

That means they were watching a match being played on Monday when they were already in the early hours of Tuesday in their country.

But it was all worth the wait and Cahill’s dramatic intervention turned the game on its head and gave Australia all three points.

Alvin Corneal of Trinidad is Bwalya’s colleague in the Fifa Technical Group and this is his report:

“It was a clash of footballing cultures. On the one hand, we saw Australia with their high tempo, commitment, fighting spirit and good organisation.

“On the other, we had Japan, who played a perfectly executed short-passing game, particularly in the first half, and deserved their 1-0 half-time advantage, even if the goal was quite extraordinary.

“Midfield dynamos Hidetoshi Nakata and Shunsuke Nakamura were instrumental in spraying the ball around to their team-mates, and their intelligent passing repeatedly created openings.

“Australia struggled to find any reliable way of keeping the confident Japanese team at bay, who in my opinion took comprehensive control of the game in the first 45 minutes.

“For the first 15 minutes after the interval, Japan continued to look unbeatable.

“They were disciplined in defence and created numerous good counterattacks, which were generally squandered.

“The pivotal moment of the match came in the 53rd minute when the introduction of Budweiser Man of the Match Tim Cahill turned the game.

“While Australia had never given up and continued to press the Japanese rearguard, they had struggled to pose any genuine threat.

“Cahill added the missing penetration to the Australians forward play and suddenly the team came to life.

“And when the Everton midfielder made it 1-1 in the 84th minute, the floodgates opened.

“Cahill struck again just five minutes later to give the Socceroos a 2-1 lead and break Zico’s mens’ hearts before John Aloisi put the game beyond doubt at 3-1 in injury time.

“On balance, it was a fair result based simply on their second-half performance.

“Australia never admitted defeat and showed incredible willpower and fighting spirit.

“The team gave everything and were rewarded with a vital opening victory.

“I must finish by mentioning the weather, which played a decisive role today. The heat was oppressive, which made things very difficult for the players.

“Japan coped better with the tropical conditions initially, but over the course of the game, I noticed their strength gradually diminish while Australia were able to maintain a high tempo for the whole game.

“It was significant that two fresh substitutes in Tim Cahill and John Aloisi scored the goals for Australia.

“The game was played very positively, both teams looked to attack.”

Corneal also watched Cote diIvoire go down 1-2 to Argentina in one of the best opening matches of this tournament.

“The statistics show that C’te d’Ivoire were not inferior but I think the greater experience of Argentina helped.

“That experience helped them to score two goals early and their finishing was the difference.

“C’te d’Ivoire were good but they played as individuals.

“They were physically very strong, but they lacked quality in their finishing and left it too late in the game to score.

“They had chances and who knows, if they had scored with one of those chances it may have been a different game.

“The greater experience of Argentina in how to gain control of a game by scoring early helped them to win this match.”

June 2006
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