The Sweeper: World Cup Qualifying Moment of the Year

Big Story

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While FIFA’s decision to seed the European group playoff match-ups—basically a mulligan for underachieving powerhouses Portugal, France and Russia—worked according to plan, along came Egypt to remind us all why football is a sport like no other.  Deep into injury time at the Cairo International Stadium and needing a second goal to tie Algeria on the top of African Group C and force a one-off playoff match this Wednesday, all looked lost for Egypt, one-up after Amir Zaki’s strike in the second minute but seemingly unable to score a second.

Then, five minutes into extra time, Emad Moteab stepped up to score for Egypt, causing total havoc and evoking memories of Michael Thomas’ goal for Arsenal in 1989 (photos and highlights are on up on the Footy Blog).  That was also the year these two teams last met with a place in the World Cup at stake, and the so-called “Match of Hate” (footage of Hossam Hassan’s goal in the 1-0 Egypt win here) led to scenes of violence which officials, including FIFA, were eager to avoid this time around.  Yet even with several high-profile pre-match incidents it will likely be the football that remains in the popular imagination in years to come; Saturday’s classic may be enough to supplant 1989 in North African football lore.

Although Wednesday’s playoff in Sudan will ultimately tell the tale.

Worldwide Stories

  • Nigeria, Cameroon and New Zealand (go Boyens go!) are all through to South Africa 2010.  A complete round-up of the weekend’s results here, and a simple, unpretentious list of all the qualified nations here.
  • The epic and long awaited MLS final is here, and it’s the LA Galaxy against Real Salt Lake.  The Chicago Fire lost 5-4 to RSL on pens on Saturday night, with Chicago native Ned Grabavoy scoring the winner.  Ouch doesn’t even begin to do it justice.
  • Maradona received a two-month ban and a fine just over $24 000 for his lewd outburst after Argentina’s WC clinching win against Uruguay.
  • New Premier League rules guaranteeing TV rights holders access to clubs means Sir Alex Ferguson will be forced to do interviews for the BBC, something he has refused since Panorama implied his agent son used his father’s status as leverage in making player deals.
  • Soccer by Ives’ source has told him that recent ex-Chivas Preki will be signing on as Head Coach at Toronto FC any minute now.
  • And finally, on a sad note, 45 000 people attended a memorial today for Robert Enke at Niedersachsen Stadion, home of Hannover 96.  The underlying theme throughout the service was the hope that Enke’s suicide might help remove the stigma of clinical depression, and allow sufferers to seek help without fear.  Club president Martin Kind had this to say: “Enke will never come into this stadium again, in this place where he stole our hearts as a sportsman, as a lead figure and captain of our team…Robert, you were the No1 in the real meaning of the word. That is why 50,000 people want to honour you, in your city, in your stadium. Enke was one of the outstanding personalities of German sport and the only consolation for me is that I had the fortune of working with him. It was a gift that Robert Enke was one of us, but sadly he was taken away far too early.”

Richard Whittall writes A More Splendid Life.

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