Wonderkids International – Part Five: Ricky’s Return

For the final blog of the year we finish with the culmination of one of our stalwart series. It’s the last of the Wonderkids as Andrew leads Portugal to World Cup 2002.

Welcome back to Portugal, we’ve missed you! 2020 is coming to a close (thankfully!) and so is our Wonderkids International series. If you missed last week, you can catch up here. Last time out we qualified in some style for the World Cup:

We’ll miss Martins, Vouzela and Delfim for the opening game due to bans. A fairly straightforward warm up, bar Norway who thrashed us 5-0 before the Euro’s.

A massive improvement on a 5-0 loss, that said, our strikers go awol.

We finally get to see the kindness of being seeded 1st.

It’s no Caravana of love though. Tough luck.

He was starting to look quite good too.

We did not Faktor in Almeida’s poor start, first giving away a penalty and then letting it slip for the goal.

The shocking striking continues against the Irish.

It’s a different story against South Africa at the Luz.

We Czech in for our opener. Noticing the defensive setup, we make an alternation and abandon the rocket for now:

The line-up isn’t the one we wanted, due to suspensions. But it pays off.

We return to The Rocket.

And de la Sagra is on the move!

We’ll have More-occo of that!

Tiago’s World Cup is over, our central midfield cover in tatters. Loja and Litos suspended for the final group game, Almeida and Beto step in. Elsewhere, our pal Litana helps Zambia to top their group.

That is a Leal blow to our chances. Another one bites the dust.

We’re having a good Korea here. But another of the flies is down.

And the group is ours.

The draw is kind and favourable after finishing top. Feels like Christmas.

A late scare but we scrape through against a dogged Turkey. Egypt beat Netherlands, but I suspect its not the kind draw we had hoped for after that result…I was right.

We leave our shooting boots back in Portugal.

The draw at this stage is always a sickener. It’s possibly the best team left in the hat.

With Delfim suspended and Tiago injured Boa Morte drops into the centre and Dani comes in.

Oh. My. Days. Martins is back from his barren run and against a top side. That’s goals number 44 and 45 for old Ricky. And we’re off to the final where an old nemesis awaits, ready for revenge.

Dani suspended, Ramirez suspended…we cobble together a side.

Then Pinto gets injured days before the final. Just what we need.

GOOOOOOAAAAAAAALLLLLLLLLLL!!! A 90th minute winner from the main man Ricky!

We took an absolute battering for 70 minutes following the perfect opening. Just as I thought it was another shootout with Italy and up pops the popstar to wrap things up. Magnificent.

And now for the vital statistics, not brought to you by Vic and Bob.

Other than Neca, absolutely golden statistics this year. Veiga’s rating is right where you want a ‘keepers to be, in that he hasn’t much been troubled into action.

Ricky was firing blanks for 7 sessions, so Fabio has stolen his dancing shoes. Still 46 in 46 isn’t bad.

We’ve had a healthy spread of suppliers.

Most impressive for me has been my all-round lynch pin of the team, Delfim. A classic fit for this role, even in 2-3-1-2-2.

Leal was also a driving force in attacking midfield. He’s taken the whole time to get to this level though due to lack of playing time at club level early in the game due to his age.

This guy was largely a back up until recently.

Without question, this has been a raging success. It all looked very troubling at the beginning when we just couldn’t overcome Germany and failed to qualify for France ’98. But what an accidental turn-around in fortunes after being forced into a tactical re-shuffle. The Rocket has come up trumps in the important games when we’ve needed to dig deep. It really does seem to churn out results that defy the odds, but it is far from impenetrable.

I hope you’ve enjoyed our sojourn in Portugal with the Wonderkids International. What’s next? Well, time for a New Year and probably a new concept. Why not try out your own Wonderkid challenge?

You can follow Andrew on twitter: @KingOfTheRooks

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