Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Tension and Celebration, in Equal Measures

Having a late evening game to attend has its benefits and its drawbacks; it’s great because we had most of the day to lounge around; it’s not so good because we have to travel to the game while the All Whites are playing and we won’t be back until the early hours. Anyway we did our best, did some lounging around by the plunge pool, had a nice outdoor shower, ate a little breakfast, before heading into to Cullinan to do some shopping and grab a bit of lunch. Mid afternoon we settled down to watch the first half hour of the New Zealand v Italy, before hitting the road at 4:30pm to head off to our Brazil v Ivory Coast game.

Although NZ had played above themselves in the opening draw against Slovakia, Italy would be a different proposition, and even though we were hoping beyond hope, our expectations were not too high. So imagine our delight when Smeltzy toe-poked in a flick-on from a free-kick in the 7th minute to take the lead against the World Champions. Even though where we are staying is in the middle of nowhere, I am sure someone could have heard us shouting and screaming 20 kms away...

Italy Equalised with a very iffy penalty decision just as we were leaving the lodge, and we were relegated to listening to the game on the radio in the car. The African commentator was difficult to understand at times, but the tension in the car as we headed into Jo’burg could have been cut with a knife. All 3 of us collectively breathed a big sigh of relief when the All White made it to half time without conceding again, but I was not sure I was going to be able to concentrate on the driving during the next 45 minutes if the score stayed the same. Boy, it was tense in that car, on the radio it sounded like one-way traffic with Italy mounting attack after attack, and the All Whites defending to the last man, those final 45 minutes seemed to take forever.

20 minutes to go, 15 minutes to go, then 10 & 5, and finally 4 minutes of extra time. By this point I was driving in the slow lane and paying far more attention to the radio than the road. Those last 4 minutes were the worst of the lot, I breathlessly counted them down to my fellow passengers until the sound of the final whistle blew, and I nearly went off the road... WOW...!! A one all draw with the reigning World Champions; it was like all our Christmas’s had come at once, we were so excited and relived.

After that, even Brazil v Ivory Coast was going to be a bit of an anticlimax. We proudly waved the NZ flag all around the Soccer City stadium, gathering the praise and congratulations of many other fans that had heard the result. We even had our photo taken by some fellow Kiwi’s and a bunch of crazy Canadians, who I swear were more excited than we were with the result.

Anyway, the Brazil v Ivory Coast game started slowly, with both teams feeling each other out in the opening 20 minutes. I would say that the Ivory Coast looked to have the better of the play, but as ever, it’s dangerous to give the Brazilians even a sniff of a chance, and when that chance arose, Fabiano did not waste it. At one-nil up the game changed and the Brazilians took full control and it was not long before and excellent piece of individual brilliance, (and at least one handball), from Fabiano once again, increased the lead to two. When Elano slotted in Brazil’s third goal early in the 2nd half, it was game over and the Brazilians took their foot of the gas. Towards the end of the game, Drogba scored a consolation header to make the score 3-1, but by this time the game had descended into a bit of a spiteful encounter, with the Brazilian play-maker, Kaka, being sent off for a 2nd yellow card, after some way over the top amateur dramatics from an Ivorian player writhing on the ground as if he had be run through with a broadsword...! Brazil ran out deserved 3-1 winners, but it had been an interesting game and we had enjoyed it.

Getting out of the stadium and back to the car took us an hour, and then another half hour to get out of the car park, so it was almost midnight when we hit the motorway north. At about 1:00am and about 60 kms from home the fuel warning light came on which made for another period of tension in the car, almost as intense as when we were listening to the NZ game, but we made it home safely at about 1:40am.

That was the last of our 4 matches in 4 days and now we have 2 days off to rest up and relax, before we hit the road again. Maybe we’ll watch a bit more football on the TV....?

1 comment:

  1. watched the very tail end...congratulations! You must've been going crazy;)