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E-Pao! Essay - Bits & pieces of World Cup football

Bits & pieces of World Cup football

By: Donn Morgan Kipgen *


With World Cup football on the roll, let's roll along with the best, worst and lighter parts of it. World Cup soccer is full of stories, and depend upon how you take. Holland seems to be the unluckiest world cuppers since they lost twice consequently in 1974 and 1978 Final matches from a position of strength, both to the home teams. The Dutch team flown by Johan Cryuff went down to the 'Kaiser' Franz Backenbaeur's Panzer Armee in 1974.

Actually the Dutch scored in the very first minute of that grand finale even before the Germans touch the ball. The fastest field goal scored by Hakan Suker of Turkey against S Korea in the 2002 World Cup took just 9 seconds. Things would have been much different had the Dutchman Rossenbrink's shot hit the right side of the near post against Argentina in the very last minute of the 1978 Final match with the score level 1-1 at that time.

The best team of the tournament seldom won the trophy. However, the magnificent 11 Brazilian led by Pele in 1970 and that of 1958 Brazilians could be dubbed as the best ever teams to lift the Jules Rimet Trophy; they took it for good. The Hungarians led by the legendary Ferenc Puskas, i.e the Magic Magyars of 1954, could be dubbed as the best soccer team failing to lift the world cup.

Being unbeaten in more than 20 international games leading to the Final match in 1954, were shocked by physically fit but unfenced Germans who wisely rested their top 5 players earlier on final league match against the rampaging Hungarians. Host England can be called the most controversial World Cup Winners. In that pulsating final match, a Geoff Hurst shot hit the underside of the bar and thudded right on to the goal-line and bounced back into play with the score level 2-2 at that time.

The Englishmen claimed a goal for a crucial 3-2 lead much to the surprise of the Germans. Since the Englishmen are always right, the referee consulted the Russian linesman who nodded his head indicating the ball had crossed the line when it hit the ground and somehow came back into play. Nobody knows what language did the referee and his assistance used to gift such a controversial goal in World Cup Final match.

But in 1986 World Cup, England had a nasty taste of such bad medicine when Diego Maradona literally punched in a 'goal' past the English 'keeper Peter Shilton much to the horror and joy for unfriendly nations. Few minutes later, Maradona latched onto a ball on his own half and beguiled three Englishmen, then ran a 45 yard slalom, dribbling past 3 English defenders and the goal keeper Shilton to score the best ever solo goal in World Cup history.

Out of all galaxy of superstars, it was the little known Saudi Arabian Said Owairan who scored another such spectacular solo goal against Belgium in the USA '94, but not to forget Michael Owen's 45 yards solo goal run in 1998.

Each and every World Cup produced new stars, controversies, great goals, and other records. The so-called 'beautiful game' has had its ugly sides too. In Japan-Korea - 2002, co-host South Korea charmed their way past Italy and Spain to reach the unthinkable semi-final spot with more than generous assistance from the match officials. It would be a serious understatement to say that all the controversially decisive decisions made in full favour of the South Koreans in 2002 at home were purely co-incidental.

In the pre-qtrs game against Italy, a dubious penalty kick was awarded to the Koreans by the referee for off-the-ball pushing, then a clean direct free-kick goal by Zambrotta was somehow disallowed without any player touching the ball on its way into the Korean's net. Later, the Italian star striker Francesco Totti was outrageously sent-off for 'diving', a second yellow card, instead of a probable penalty when he was tackled down inside the Korea box.

Then, in the Qtr-final match the Koreans were once again, rather twice, saved by the referee and the linesman by disallowing two clear field goals scored by Spaniards. Since they have the abilities, Deutschland- 2006 would be a perfect opportunity for the South Koreans that they can beat any world class footballing nations without any generous assistance from the match officials.

Apart from the disgusting 6-1 'fixed' victory for Argentina over Peru in 1978, allowing them to clinch a semi-final spot at the expense of the hapless Brazilians, the Maradona's Hand of God in 1986, a Hurst bounced-back goal in 1966 Final match, a Kungfu kick from the German goal keeper Schuma-cher against Frenchman Batiston in 1982, a disallowed goal from a Zico header in 1978 whereat the referee blew his whistle to end the match just before the ball crossed the goal-line etc.

there were many bizarre and outrageous incidents in World Cup history. In 1994 World Cup, Italian defender Tassotti was suspended for 8 matches by the FIFA for his harsh elbowing against the Spanish forward Luis Enrique. However, no yellow card nor a penalty kick was given by the referee for that serious offence.

Just before the ball crossed the goalline, etc there were many bizarre and outrageous incidents. Remember the sprawling Beckham's innocuous back-heel flick against the cotton-weight Argentine Ortega (1998) which earned him a red card? We all remember the frustrated young Maradona's sent-off in 1982 when he booted a Brazilian marker as a 'retaliatory' professio-nal foul.

What would have happened in the knock-out stage of the 1986 World Cup if the referee had not blown the whistle very late to disallow a Hugo San-chez clean strike during a goalmouth melee inside the W German box? With that 'goal' allowed, the host Mexico could have move on to the Qtr-Final stage and not the eventual runners-up Germany.

In the Qtr-Final match between France and Brazil one unprecedented controversial goal during a penalty shoot-out pushed Michael Platini led France to the semi-final spot. During the tense tie-breaker, Belloni blasted his spot kick straight onto the left-hand post of the Brazilian goal-keeper Carlos, though beaten he guessed it right. The ball bounced back onto the back of the diving Carlos and then bounced into the net and the referee allowed it.

According to FIFA rules, a tie-breaking penalty shot is considered a dead ball once it hit the goal post/bar and the goal keeper and bounced out. The goal was allowed since it all happened in one motion; we may not see such freak incident again, and that of the 1966 Final Match. Another bizarre decision which would not be seen again was the one that of a goal given in favour of France against Kuwait in 1982 World Cup by the referee and then disallowed after a violent protest by the Kuwait players and team officials.

The 1990 World Cup in Italy saw two sent-off in the Final match for the first time and it was also the least ever goal scored in the title match- a penalty goal by the German half-back Andrea Brehme (pr Bre-ma). The Italia'90 also produced a stunning defence record by the host team, Italy, who conceded just one regulation time goal late in the 2nd half of the Semi-final match against Argentina when Claudio Cannigia beat Walter Zen-ga in the air for an unlikely equaliser.

The unimpreg-nable Azzuris back four manned by the skilful Paolo Maldini, G. Bareisi, Bergomi and Ferri along with Fernando de Agosto-ni, the Veteran Pedro Vier-chawood and Berti, unbel-ieveably kept a clean sheet in 51/2 matches. Just add two 'friendly' international's games with a clean sheet leading to the World Cup, such fantastic record is far near impossible to surpass.

The Italian forward Alessandro Altobelli also made a record of scoring in two consecutive back goals in two different World Cups when he scored a goal in Italy's opening game in Mexico '86 - he had scored a goal in the victorious final match against W Germany in Espana '82. We all know that Norman Whiteside of N. Ireland became the youngest ever World cupper when he played against Yugoslavia in Espana '82 at the age of just 17 yrs and 40 days; whereas the ol'jolly Roger Milla (Cameroon) became the oldest player to score a World Cup goal when he booted in one against Russia at the ripe age of 42 yrs in USA '94.

Surprisingly, Milla was 2 yrs older than the oldest World Cup winning goal-keeper, Dino Zoff of Italy (Espana '82). Another near impossible record to beat is that of the Brazilian striker Jairjinho, who scored in all the matches upto the victorious final game against Italy in 1970 World Cup - his striking partner being the legendary Pele, scoring just 4 goals.

Now, what would be the common or general strategy in this 2006 World Cup? A most favourable 4-4-2 or 4-3-1-2 system would be the first move for many managers. Since the 1990 goal drought, many teams resorted to a more offensive 3-4-2-1 or an adventurous 4-3-1-2 combination with a quality sweeper and a swift winger. It is worth noting that the Brazilians dominated the football world by introducing mid-fielders supporting the two wingers in a 4-2-4 formation.

With that formation, the Brazilians won 3 World Cups in 1958, '62 and 1970. Ironically, the 1966 World Cup was lifted by Sir Alf Ramsey's Englishmen without wingers, thereby, earning the team: - 'Wingless Wonder'. But in the early 1970s, an all-round positioning strategy called 'Total Football' was introduced, spearheaded by the Dutch under the captaincy of Johan Cryuff.

This strategy was also picked up by the Germans under Franz Backenbauer. It essentially means that any player can do anything on any part of the field irrespective of their regular positioning system, having a regular attacking sweeper called 'libero'. At present the world football is a mixture of Brazilian strategy and Total Football with a more offensive approach.

The more positive thing about modern football is the presence of laid-back striker, creative midfield formation and two half-backs playing the role of sweepers. Yes, goals may not come aplenty but the all-round offensive moves switching from left to right, with deft passes would surely entertain millions of football lovers all over the world.

The most likely tactical formation in this Deutschland 2006 ought be 4-3-1-2, which could be easily switch on to either 4-3-2-1 or the late offensive 3-4-3 in search of a desperate late goal. Deutschland '06 may well be a game of goalscoring midfielders supported by offensive or adventurous defenders. But only time can tell the whole tales of thrills and frills.

It's kick-off time and let's focus our full attention to the TV screen.

You can't see red card for time wasting for idling in front of your TV set and but you can shout your lungs out; so roll on 'bosom freunde'.


Donn Morgan Kipgen wrote this article for The Sangai Express
This article was webcasted on June 11th, 2006

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