Date: Tuesday 20th June 2006
Location: Kaiserslautern, Germany
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TNT VS PARAGUAY - LATAS LAST STAND
So there we were, June 20th, our 3rd game of the 2006 FIFA World Cup. Before we came everyone penciled this in as our last and final game 3 and out of the tournament. In fact, if you listened to some folks, like Bruce Arena (USA Head Coach), you could have written it in a Shapie that the Soca Warriors would be done with this World Cup after the 1st round. However, after holding the Swedes to a nil - nil draw, and going down admirably to the Three Lions we were still in it with a chance of the 2nd Round of 16. We would need some help from the English, and they owe us ... they would have to beat Sweden and we would need to help ourselves by beating Paraguay and 4 points and a better goal difference would see us through. Ten days everyone would have been happy with TnT just playing 3 solid games, not getting waxed by a embarrassing score line and leaving after our 3rd game proud to have been here. After the first game that all changed, and why not, if we could hold Sweden, and England for 83 minutes, would could we not beat Paraguay and move on, so needless to say hopes were high.
The stage for this final battle was K-Town (Kaiserslautern), and after stepping off the train from Frankfurt, it was quite apparent that this would be a home game for the Soca Warriors. Everywhere was Red, White and Black, so much so that you wondered if FIFA provided any tickets to the Paraguayan FA. It seemed that everyone was a TnT fan, the love was overwhelming!! All of Germany was on the Soca Train with their faces either painted with the TnT national colours or both TnT and German national colours; and we never saw so many TnT National flags in our lives!! If Germans didn't know how Trinis love to party, they definitely knew after this World Cup, and the best part was looking at their enjoyment as they joined in on the festivities.
As we jammed down to the sweet sounds of the Rhythm Section in the packed out street (and we mean ram), we could only look at each other and ask, "We in front of Smokey & Bunty's or wha??!!" Fuss de lime was sweet, sweet! Game time was near so we had was to make the trip up the hill to the stadium, and what a trek that was, not since boy scouts days have we hiked like that. So now the all too familiar scenes plays out, the teams enter the field, the national anthems are played and then GAME ON!
Avery John is back in his left back position, but Cyd Gray is out due to suspension (2 yellow cards). The other changes to the squad were Kelvin Jack back in goal and Cornell Glen staring up front as Stern John's Strike partner, hopefully this would have ended our goalless World Cup. Things looked even early on, but on 25 minutes lady luck was caught napping as a free-kick by Paraguay glanced of the head of defender Brent Sancho into our net for an own goal, this took some of the wind out of the sails of the fans but the players kept fighting on. Then we lost Cornell Glen to a knee injury, and a goal line clearance was needed by Densil Theobald to keep the margin at only 1 goal.
After Glen went off injured, Beenie (Leo Beenhakker) brought in Kenwyne Jones upfront removing defender Avery John, still no Latas. Eventually the crowd cant take it anymore and start to chant LATAPY! LATAPY! LATAPY! Soon afterwards he begins to warm up on the sideline and then takes his instructions from Beenie on the sideline before finally entering his first World Cup match at the age of 37. Peter Goldstein of planetworldcup.com summarizes Latas game very nicely ... "And so for 23 minutes we had Russell Latapy at the World Cup. And he was beautiful. With his first touch he slipped a defender and found an open Densil Theobald on the left wing. With his second he spun around in the penalty area and fed Yorke near the arc for a shot. With his third it was a neat circle and pass to a charging Stern John. He wasn't running much--really just strolling around the field--but every time he got the ball you said "ah!" You really didn't care what else was happening; you just wanted to see Russell Latapy with the ball at his feet. A lovely through ball to Kenwyne Jones, a blast from the top of the area, a solo spin-dribble-shot from the arc, excitement upon excitement, inspiration upon inspiration. You pleaded for a goal, prayed that such beauty be rewarded one last time."
Alas it was not meant to be, Paraguay's Nelson Cuevas scored another nifty goal, beating Jack at the near post (yes near post) and so our World Cup dream has come to an end. It was by no means a nightmare, just a dream that did not end the way we wanted. Oh well, we will be dreaming bigger dreams for 2010 ... South Africa here we come!!