WC 2014 Column


Day 11 - Bring on a new Aljubarrota!

By Gabriel Cazotto

    The Day started with two games from Group H. But the big day would be focused in Manaus, the Manaus sauna that would receive a clash between the U.S. and Portugal. An American victory would eliminate Portugal for the competition, the first time including World Cup and Euro since 2002. But we will return to this later.

    In Rio de Janeiro, at the heat of 1pm proved that this World Cup will be decided in whom as the best physical condition. The "General Winter" that helped the Soviet Union to win two World Wars was confronted by the "General Summer", a real summer, on Rio’s winter as it was at Maracanã at one o'clock, a Beach day over the field, Belgium, darling of the youngsters confronted Russia, darling of the tactical pragmatics in the figure of Capello, perhaps the best coach of the tournament.

    Who expected games like the 4x3 Belgium-USSR in 1986 in Mexico, Russia-Belgium 2-3 in 2002 in Japan, even a 4x1 USSR-Belgium in the heat of Cidade do Mexico in 1970 saw a perfectly drawn tactical game, created by Capello to defend, reach a tie and play everything against Algeria.

    And it was perfect, the Russian defensive scheme was perfect, in White shirts, to better suit the heat, the Russians saw its defense, led by Ignashevich, one of the best so far, perfectly holds Lukaku. They also saw Kozlov, make a perfect game in nullified Hazard.

    But Kozlov succumbed to fatigue, succumbed to cramps and gave place to Eschchenko. It was the moment that Belgium’s fine star to shine, 43 minutes into the second half, the jewel of Flanders, Eden, dribbled pulled the bottom line and crossed for the giant Origi score and put the sensational (but still too away from its potential) the Belgians to the next round.

    In the afternoon, Korea attacked with speed, but also ingenuity, Algeria, which had not won since 1982 played as if it Feghouli was Madjer, as if it Slimani was Bensaoula, as if Belloumi was Djabou and Brahimi, Salah Assad, hey simply massacred Korea in the first half, 3x0, 4x1, 4x2 full-time. The Desert Foxes can reissue the 1982 showdown with Germany that resulted in the "Disgrace of Gijon" over 30 years later. Algeria, with guts and a lot of technique virtually dispatched to Korea and play for a draw against the pragmatic Russia for a spot in the next round, and not only that, but became the first African team to score four goals in a World Cup game. Great day for Les Fennecs and their fans.

    And it come the most expected game of the day in the nightfall of Manaus near bouts of the Amazon rain forest. With an Infernal heat, humidity in 88%, an open sauna for both teams. It only took 5 minutes to Nani makes 1x0 for Portugal. Portugal retracts, calling the U.S. to their field to counter-attack. Portugal perhaps the best counterattack in the World. This is a fine tactic, but would it suit perfectly the hat of Manaus? How to pull a full speed counterattack in this heat? They managed to pulled just one at the end of the first half with Nani hitting Howard’s crossbar who later amazed saved the rebound of Eder (when Postiga, the fifth Portuguese player to suffer physical problems crashing down on the field). Portugal breathed, sighed and perspired.

    The second half begun, the USA came like a train, with a weak left side without Coentrão, or any suitable sub, Bento improvised André Almeida, poor, later Miguel Veloso, also poor, and even after that, pushed Raul Meireles to the left, which saw two goals from the USA happens from Johnson’s excellent plays by this side. Bento, in a very intelligent move managed to advance William, what a player! From that on he managed to parry American attack when they were leading and released Veloso, worn only to defend.

    When the USA got both hand in the qualifying spot, Cristiano Ronaldo, like Messi against Iran apparently disappeared, shined! With one knee at perhaps 60% by the time. The superstar needed only one chance. Only ONE. 51 minutes of the second half, the CR7 shone, crossed and Varela, the hero of the goals of injury times, the da Caparica Drogba equalized. USA almost removed the devices from the Portuguese ICU, but Ronaldo and Varela reattached. Lisbon entered into ecstasy! It is difficulty of course, but Portugal recently learned to believe in miracles: in 2010 Bruno Alves goal against Albania which left them alive for the 2010 World Cup, in 2012, Coentrão injury time goal against Israel which left alive Portugal for 2014.

    Yet, the U.S. should still probably pass. But if there is something I learned in football is that one should never overlook the miracle factor. Miracle, which is all that Portugal will need in Brasilia to continue in the World Cup. And if everything that is capable of happening in a World Cup are Miracles. Miracle that the U.S. already did in 1950, that Germany did in 1954, that the American should not have let that happen, but that is now in the hands of the Gods of Football.

    Be aware, Portugal has miracle on his side historically, they hopes to repeat the miracle of Aljubarrota, which they entered the battle with 1 to 5 men from Galician, French and Spaniards and managed to beat the odds realizing a miracle form the Lusa infantry.

I bet everyone in Portugal is claiming: Bring on a new Aljubarrota!

Man of the Matches:

Vincent Kompany - BEL
Islam Slimani - ALG
William - POR

1st and 2nd round squads:

Ochoa; Aurier, Manolas, Hummels, Pooladi; Herrera, Aránguiz, James Rodríguez; Robben, Alexis Sánchez, Benzema.

Coach: Jorge Luis Pinto



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