Thursday 11 September ~
It was an amazing result. The team had travelled with little expectation of anything other than another humiliating defeat. Instead they pulled off a deserved victory that stunned the home crowd. Whether it is a harbinger of great things to come is open to question but you can be certain that one young man’s life will never be the same. Well done Alphonse Leweck, whose 86th-minute goal in Zurich secured Luxembourg’s 2-1 win against Ottmar Hitzfeld’s Switzerland.
Actually, the midfielder from Etzella Ettelbruck will probably take the media attention in his stride given that he also got the goal that beat Belarus in a Euro qualifier in 2007 – the only other time that Luxembourg have avoided defeat in a competitive match in the past 13 years. The defeat may not even prove terminal to the Swiss hopes of qualifying, given that they are in a distinctly mediocre group with Greece as the top seeds and Israel the only other serious contenders for qualification.
Hitzfeld wasn’t the only international manager to be humiliated at home, of course. Carlos Queiroz’s Portugal took the lead with seven minutes to go against Denmark yet still lost 3-2, while Iceland – whose coach Olafur Johannesson was buoyant after their 2-2 draw in Norway on Saturday – suffered the indignity of conceding a goal to the hefty Kirk Broadfoot, Scotland’s debutant right-back whose own manager described him as “not a natural talent”.
And, yes, it wasn’t the best of nights for Slaven Bilic either. Although the man who has been deemed to be imperishably cool because he wears an earring and plays in a rock band (so does Bono, after all) was quite gracious in the wake of Croatia’s 4-1 defeat to England: “We knew they had brilliant players. Walcott is lightning quick, a great finisher.” Meanwhile, the reaction in the English press today was comparatively muted. Expectations have been so firmly damped down over the past few years that even a victory like last night’s can’t generate the sort of roaring dementia brought on by the 5-1 win in Germany in 2001.
Instead, the focus has been on the player variously described as Theo The Lion, Boy Wonder and Superstud (the latter due to his having lost a stud in his boot in the first half). According to the Daily Mirror’s match report, Walcott “came of age” in the Maksimir Stadium while Sun columnist Harry Redknapp senses that a process is underway, the precise nature of which he isn’t able to reveal: "Maybe, just maybe, Capello is about to take a group of young lads and turn them into men.” Antlers will be discreetly removed on the coach to Wembley for the Kazakhstan match in October.