Friday, June 09, 2006

The second match of the 2006 world cup promises to be a tight one. Both teams closely matched to each other. If the first match was any indicator, we should be in for a true treat.
Poland, for the seventh time in the finals, faces a South American team. Not the strongest of them, but still Ecuador is no push over.
Poland came third in the famous, for me anyway, 1974 finals and won gold in Munchen in 1972 during the Olympic Games.
On the other side of the fence is Ecuador, qualifying for the finals only for the second time. But the South Americans have grown fast and their first participation was only four years ago in 2002. It certainly seems they have momentum left as they qualified second in the massive South American group, after the mighty Brazilians. The 200 to one odds some bookies offer is in my eyes a gross mistake.
The first serious attack is for Poland, in the fourth minute a player of Ecuador fails to get the ball under control before the Polish keeper plucks it out of the air. Ecuador counters straight away with a hard shot of striker Valencia that misses target because of a deflection of the back of a Polish defender.
Nevertheless, it is the Polish who gain control, and the keeper of Ecuador needs to fist the ball away in the six minute. The game is tensed. "So much at stake," says the commetator. "After the emphatic win of Germany, there is only room for one more. I know he is right, with only three games to play, Germany has made a strong case to go to round two. So only one more nation of this group can go through. With Costa Rica's loss against the Germans, the odds are either Poland or Ecuador. So much at stake.
Poland keeps pushing but fails to deliver. After a little scuffle in setting up the wall, a free kick flies meters over the crossbar. Another missed chance. Poland is dominant but has problems. "Slow and aging." calls the commentator the Polish defendors and he is right as in the 23rd-minute world cup history 2006 was written. One fast counter of Ecuador ended in a stretched dive-header,



This is the action I was waiting for. I am on the edge of the seat as a striker from Poland in the same minute can not stretch his leg far enough for the equalizer. World cup drama, the camera catches a fan in a polish shirt now holding his cheeks.
Paraguay now circling the ball amongst themselves and manage to get the ball just a couple of feet off the Polish goal-line, only to see it launched in the air, over the cross-bar.
"Bam-bam," says the commentator. "The nickname for the Ecuadorian captain."
I frown.

But throughout most of the remainder of the first half Ecuador sets the pace.
The second half Poland takes more and more control. In the fifty-first minute, the ball even lands in the net. However, the shot was after the whistle, a close call for offside. Poland creates better and better chances but still does not get to score. 58th minute a miss from 11 meters for a goal only defended by the Latin keeper. 59th minute, four against five, still no score.
The sound of the stands is from the Polish, the red and white army is not giving up.
"The Ecuadorian defense is bending a little bit, but they haven't broken." Says the commentator.
The eighty minute arrives and so does another world cup miracle. A clever one, two and 'Belgrado' puts the ball in the net for Ecuador.


The Polish fans seem frozen. Their team is still fighting. "Struggling for a life-line," says the commentator.
That they did, but to no reveal.
What a tremendous first day, Germany is not dead and Ecuador is lifted in World Cup euphoria.