Cup openers sizzle with a pair of surprises
In a Group B match played Sunday morning Korean time, Trinidad and Tobago, playing in its World Cup game ever, drew with heavily favored Sweden 0-0.
The smallest nation ever to qualify for a World Cup tournament, Trinidad and Tobago lost its starting goalkeeper Kelvin Jack when he strained his calf during the warm-up, and then defender Avery John was ejected in the first minute of the second half, for a second yellow card. However, playing with 10 players, Trinidad and Tobago rode the spectacular goaltending of Shaka Hislop to the surprising tie.
“It was a disappointment, of course, we couldn't score,” Swedish coach Lars Lagerback told Reuters. “Their goalkeeper made some great saves.”
The other hero for Trinidad and Tobago was team captain Dwight Yorke, a 34-year-old veteran and a former star forward with English Premier League's Manchester United. Following John's ejection, he anchored a defensive shield from midfield that helped keep the game scoreless.
In late Saturday night's Group B contest, England beat Paraguay 1-0 on an own goal from Paraguayan defender Carlos Gamarra off a free kick by David Beckham in the third minute.
In the first half, England displayed dexterity and flair. However, but the team seemed listless in the latter half, with temperatures climbing to 29 degrees Celsius (84 F).
English midfielder Frank Lampard said afterward that the heat affected the team in the second half, but the players were still happy with the result.
The outlook for Group B, once considered the domain of England and Sweden, has now become more exciting, with those two heavy favorites coming off lackluster efforts, and the two remaining teams demonstrating speed and tenacity at both ends. Sweden will take on Paraguay in the next match in the group early on June 16.
In Sunday’s final match between Group C teams, Argentina sweated out a 2-1 win over the energetic Ivory Coast. Argentinean star forwards Hernan Crespo and Javier Saviola scored in the first half, and Didier Drogba got the lone goal for the African nation, late in the game. Though Argentina allowed Ivory Coast to mount a comeback from a 2-0 second half deficit, Crespo looked in mid-tournament form throughout the game, not great news for other Group C squads.
In the tournament’s opening match early Saturday, host Germany won a Group A contest over Costa Rica, 4-2, with three of the match’s goals coming in within the first 17 minutes.
Despite missing top striker Michael Ballack on a strained ankle, Germany showed substantial firepower up front. Miroslav Klose led the way with two goals, but the team’s defense was beaten twice by Paulo Wanchope. The speedy Costa Rican striker slipped by an offsides trap by the German defenders both times.
In another Group A game, Ecuador upset Poland 2-0. Of central importance to Ecuador's victory were their defensive backs. Ivan Hurtado, Ulises de la Cruz, Giovanny Espinoza and Neicer Reasco were superb, rarely getting caught out of position amid furious comeback efforts by the Polish.
by Yoo Jee-ho