Spain: Casillas; Puyol, Hierro, Nadal, Juanfran
(Romero 82'); Luis Enrique (Iván Helguera 73'), Baraja, Valerón,
De Pedro; Diego Tristán (Morientes 66'), Raúl. 4-4-2.
Slovenia: Simuenovic; Milinovic, Galic, Knavs; Novak (Gajser 77'), Karic, A. Ceh, Pavlin; Zahovic (Acimovic 64'), Rudonja; Osterc (Cimerotic 56'). 3-4-2-1.
1-0. 43. Raúl. Picked up loose ball and dummied defender before shooting low.
2-0. 74. Valerón. Placed shot wide of keeper following long cross in from De Pedro.
2-1. 81. Cimirotic. Took return pass and shot low wide of keeper from inside area.
3-1. 88. Hierro (penalty). After Gajser ruled to have tripped Morientes.
Hello, Borja and Goran here! We made it! Actually it's not easy hitchhiking from Spain to South Korea, and there are moments when we think we are not going to get here. Goran well, he's not the best map reader in the world, and you tell me why we end up in Gabón? Then we get back and are into Turkey when we are picked up for possessing a strange white powder. Anybody know the Turkish for coffee creamer? We don't, and it costs us a night in one of those midnight express jails before the sergeant tries it in his tea and decides it doesn't have the effect he expected. And I can't even find a way to explain why Goran gets it into his head that we have to cross Iraq on a camel as the most direct route to the Far East. Anyway I won't bore you with the rest, the fact is that we arrive in Gwangju in time for the opening game with some old friends from Slovenia.
We know these guys, they give us a hard time in the Euro 2000 before we win 2-1. They are making their debut in the World Cup though, and with the old Valencia player Zahovic having kidney problems they can't be too difficult to beat (maybe he ate too much kimchee or whatever they call it. Pickled dymamite would be a better name). Our first surprise on catching up with the team news is that Cañizares has been trying out a new method of painting his toenails, and is out for the count. Camacho anyway has picked a logical line up, finally deciding to go for wingers Luis Enrique and De Pedro to get round the defence but still finding room for Valerón, Raúl and Diego Tristán. In defence he decides to play Nadal in the middle with Puyol at right back and Juanfran preferred at the other side to Romero. Alright we suppose, and should be enough to win this one.
A fright though in the early minutes, as Casillas has to make two saves from Zahovic, the first a diving header from a corner and then a long shot. What is it about this guy that he is so crap in club matches but looks like the reincarnation of Johann Cruyff playing for his country? De Pedro has a couple of good efforts from free kicks, but has not quite got the range yet, and then lands one on Raúl's head but a bit too far over.
We hear some comments that Raúl doesn't produce the goods on the big occasions (we suppose his goal in the Champions League final doesn't count then), but in case there was any doubt he scores the goal of the tournament so far just before half time, following up after Luis Enrique's charge through is blocked. The ball falls to him on the edge of the area, a shimmy past a lunging defender and a low shot through the legs of a defender into the bottom corner and there you are, Roberto is your tío. One nil to Spain, and in for a suck on the lemon slices at half time to take the smile off your face.
Out we come for the second half, and the heat is oppressive, 80% humidity at least. The sweat patches on Camacho's underarms are clear to see for several billion television viewers, but he doesn't care. Spain should get a second goal, Luis Enrique is closed down, Raúl shoots over and Diego Tristán produces a bit of magic but his effort is saved. Zahovic is off, probably in the toilets, and Morientes comes on for Tristán, who worryingly seems to have an ice pack on his foot. We hope he is just trying to invent a new cocktail. A minute later the best move of the game, a couple of backheels and the rest set up Morientes, but he has not woken up yet and shoots straight at the keeper.
And then De Pedro gets away down the left wing, and bends a low cross into the penalty area. It gets ahead of the defence, and there is Valerón to slot the ball past the keeper as if he does that sort of thing every week. Two up, and the fans think its all over (incidentally the way the locals have taken to the 'selección' is impressive - we don't know who is selling them the shirts but he must be making a mint). But it isn't now, to paraphrase a famous commentator, as substitute Cimerotic bustles through to shoot low past a stranded Casillas. And to think that when we saw the name Cimerotic on the team sheet we though it was an advert for a new adult computer game!
Anyway we go through a couple of minutes of anguish as Acimovic falls in the penalty area under a challenge from Romero, who had replaced the injured Juanfran after the goal. The Moroccan referee Mr. Guezzaz (who had booked Cimerotic for diving in the area earlier) lets us off though, and a couple of minutes later makes himself persona non grata in Slovenia (there goes his summer holidays) by giving us a dubious penalty when Gajser clears the ball on the edge of the area and catches Morientes in the same move. Spain's all time top goal scorer Hierro steps up to score his 28th goal for his country, keeping him two ahead of Raúl who has just caught up with second placed Butragueño. The party begins, and we have won our opening match for the first time in 52 years since we beat the United States in Brazil in 1950. That year we got our best ever result in the competition, fourth. Can we dare to hope?