Trinidad & Tobago 0 Sweden 0
For all the Americans who say soccer is boring because there often isn't a lot of scoring, this was a game they should have watched. Maybe they'd understand.
Sure, it ended 0-0, but the second half, particularly the final 15 minutes, was as edge-of-your-seat as it gets. T&T, the smallest nation ever to qualify for the World Cup, was doing the unthinkable - they were holding heavily favored Sweden to a tie despite being under a neverending barrage of offensive flow. Even more impressive, they were doing it with only ten men after Avery John received his second yellow card in the 46th minute. Sweden was swarming in waves - wave after wave after wave - and it seemed impossible that their big three - Henrik Larsson, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Fredrik Ljunberg - could be held off all afternoon. There was no way, right? They kept coming and coming and coming and...
T&T keeper Shaka Hislop, who was only named the surprise starter minutes before kickoff, came through with the most heroic performance of the World Cup so far, denying the Swedes again and again with a series of unlikely saves. Haslop was once a NASA intern and his play on this day was out of this world. (How corny is that?) On several occasions he stonewalled the Swedes from face-blank range as the boys in yellow became more and more visibly frustrated and T&T came more and more alive with the belief that they could actually pull it off. It was awesome. It was inspiring.
Why? Because in a situation like that you just know that the entire fuckin' world is watching and anyone and everyone who isn't a Swede was hoping for the unknown Caribbean boys to pull off the shocker. And no matter how inevitable it seemed that Sweden would ultimately break through, Haslop denied them. And with each dying second the upset seemed more and more possible until it was actually real. It was like watching a dream grow from a seed into full bloom right before your eyes. And although no goals were scored, that's pretty exciting. Hell, even Dwight Yorke, the longtime striker who is now playing a midfield role in his advanced age, was all the way back near the T&T goalline playing defense as Sweden came forward relentlessly. It was that sort of effort. Awesome.
Props must also be given to T&T coach Leo Beenhakker. Not only did he devise a foolproof gameplan that kept his team in it from the start, but after John was ejected, Beenhaaker made the curious decision to add another attacking player instead of another defender. It made no sense, but it worked. It was like he was saying, "I know that going into a shell right now would be the sensible thing to do in this dire situation, but you know what? I'm Leo fuckin' Beenhakker and I'm looking around at all this fine Swedish tail in the stands and I'm feeling frisky. Yup, I'm feeling a little crazy here. Fuck it. Let's go get 'em, boys!"
It turned out to be a stroke of genius. Perhaps adding that offensive player instilled T&T with the belief that the game was still being played on normal terms and there was no need to panic. Or maybe it was just an insane move that somehow worked. Whatever. It doesn't matter now.
You can bet that nowhere in the world will be partying as hard tonight as Port of Spain. T&T will probably lose its next two games, but for one day at least the entire world watched and the entire world was shocked. And who knows, maybe they're not done surprising people.
Meanwhile, Sweden is in a world of trouble. They were undoubtedly counting on three points from this game and now they get a Paraguayan team that will be desperate after its loss to England. This Swedish fan is clearly distraught and worried. Someone console here. I know it's a tough job, but someone must do it.