Seven stunning moments from the first round
13.08.03 – Finland 2:1 China – min. 64 – Group A, Helsinki
After going down 0-1 early, the brave host Vintiöt surged back to take control of a seesaw battle with Asian side China in the tournament’s opening match.
After having a goal disallowed for offside, the Finns finally struck the winner. Tomi “Tomba” Petrescu bent in a swerving free kick from 25 yards out. And with the aid of a shrewd dummy by skilful Turkish-born playmaker Umit Menekse, the ball snuck past the wrong-footed Tian after a cruel bounce at the back post. (2-1, 64’)
The three proved the only points the Finns would gather at the finals, but the match set the crowd alight and offered an adrenaline-fuelled start to the competition.
13.08.03 - Nigeria 1:1Costa Rica – min. 83 - Group B, Turku
With seven minutes remaining Costa Rica found themselves down 1-0 and showing few signs they would get back into a match. Until Josimar Arias, by far the smallest player on the pitch, picked up the ball 35 yards out and proceeded to waltz through Nigeria’s normally rock-solid defence before calmly side-footing past goalkeeper Ambruse Vanzekin.
“When I took up the ball my only intention was to run with it and score,” he said, eyes lighting up. “I shrugged off one player. Another came, but he was off balance and I was able to take it round him and when the keeper approached, I saw a corner and put the ball there. I’ve scored goals like it before but never in a world championship.”
In the end the goal proved decisive. After the two sides finished the group stage tied on points, goal average and, as a result of Josimar’s brilliance, head-to-head, the dreaded drawing of lots sent Costa Rica through to the quarter-finals…
14.08.03 – Yemen 3:4 Portugal – mins. 80,82, 88, – Group C, Tampere
After going up 2-0, then having the lead levelled 2-2, Yemen went up 3-2, before Portugal drew level once more, and finally killed off the game eight minutes from time.
Second half sub Manuel Fernandes curled a majestic right-foot free kick into the bottom corner and Portugal were back level (3-3, 80’). With the European champions now firing on all cylinders the Asians were up against it. Eight minutes from time the Lusitanians broke through on the right and scored a fourth from a goalmouth scramble (3-4, 82’). Despite two close calls in the dying moments (88’, 93’) the Europeans hung on and victory was theirs.
“It was a top class game with a good deal of suspense,” said Portuguese coach, Antonio Violante after the match. “We got lucky at the right time in this game but I never doubted we would win.”
14.08.03 – USA 6: 1 Korea Republic – min. 16 - Group D, Lahti
After finding themselves 1-0 down after a tragic Dwight Owen’s own goal, the Americans hit back straight away with the tournament’s youngest player Freddy Adu leading the charge. ollowing some foraging early work, the 14-year-old sensation collected the ball 45 yards from goal, turned brilliantly and ghosted past four flat-footed Korean defenders with a stunning burst of speed. Rounding keeper Cha Ki Seok with ease, the prodigy slotted home with his left foot to send the US team into wild celebrations – and surely no one was happier than unlucky Owens. (1-1, 16’)
“I was actually looking around for someone to pass to,” said the humble youngster with a bag of ice strapped to his ankle after the match. “No one was around, so I just decided to go for it…”
14.08.03 - Spain 3:3 Sierra Leone – min. 96 – Group D, Lahti
After seeing their side reduced to ten men, a seemingly insurmountable 2-0 lead slip to a 2-3 deficit, Spain looked dead and buried – pinned back by the heroics of brave Sierra Leone and in particular a two-goal performance by brilliant captain Samuel Barlay.
But a full six minutes into stoppage time, the visibly exhausted Africans allowed substitute Xisco to sneak in at the near post and nod a goal literally at the death, to the near post. As the Spaniards celebrated wildly with coach Juan Santisteban at the touchline, the final whistle sounded…leaving Sierra Leone collapsed in a head in their own penalty area…what three points might have meant for Sierra Leone’s hopes…
22.08.03 - Portugal 5:5 Cameroon - min. 21 Group C, Tampere
FC Porto’s Vieira de Freitas intercepted the ball inside his own half, took three steps and struck a breathtaking lob from inside his own centre circle. The crowd held its breath and watched in amazement as the ball flew in a perfect arc over the despairing grasp of Cameroon keeper Luc Kalapach, who could only leap back into his goal after the ball. Given that Ratina stadium is 105 metres long, it is not unreasonable to suggest the ball travelled 60 metres before finding the net! A Portuguese Pele is born, and the goal of the tournament is virtually unbeatable (1-0, 21’). “It’s the greatest goal I’ve ever scored,” admitted a beaming Vieira after the match. “I’ve often tried it, but never pulled it off.” The two coaches confessed they had never seen a strike like it in a match, and Antonio Violante was moved to describe his young prodigy in the following glowing terms: “He’s an exceptionally talented boy, who sees things other players don’t see.”
Comeback… 22.08.03 - Portugal 5:5 Cameroon - min. 92 – Group C, Tampere
After finding themselves down by five goals, Cameroon raced back within 25 minutes of the second half to do the next-to-impossible…
Little by little, the Africans had won over the Ratina crowd, originally spellbound by the sublimely talented Lusitanians. Cameroon were being urged on to achieve the impossible. They pulled level when the referee awarded them an indirect free kick inside the area after the Portuguese stopper picked up a back pass. With the Europeans lined up in a wall along their own goal-line, the Cameroonians cleverly pulled the ball several metres back and across goal for Etoundi Mbia to ram in a rocket past the eleven Europeans. Just one goal away from the second round, time was not on the Lion Cubs’ side, as the whistle went three times putting a lid on their wild dream…what only two more minutes might have brought…