sábado, outubro 06, 2007

Drinking Portugal`s spirit

Portugal: Spirited

Portugal: Spirited

If I am being honest the World Cup has been pretty boring so far, baring the odd match here and there, and with the pool schedule passing the half-way stage I don't see much hope of improvement.

You would think the prospect of the knock-out stages would be something to look forward to, but sadly it is not the case. And there is one reason in particular for this lack of enthusiasm: Portugal will have gone home already. Yes, you did read that right.

In a tournament where professionalism is the key ingredient we have seen the camaraderie of days gone by, forgotten, lost in the snottiness of an overly professional approach.

Thank goodness then for Portugal, for whilst they have not set the tournament on fire with their rugby, they have added a special something to the otherwise mundane goings on.

The highlight for me was their impromptu game of football with the All Blacks, despite having just suffered a huge defeat. This solitary act showed that the Portuguese are, in my eyes, above every other team at the tournament. They reached out to the All Blacks in a way unbeknown in the modern era, and credit to Dan Carter and company for accepting the challenge.

Yet it goes beyond such acts, for Portugal have brought a unity to this tournament that we have not seen in rugby for a long time. For they are, with all due respect, the ultimate underdog, and there is not a soul who does not wish them every success.

If you don't believe me, just listen to the crowds get behind them. Never has there been a more popular score than when Rui Cordeiro burrowed over against the All Blacks, to the delight of millions the world over. One senses maybe even Graham Henry cheered it on the inside, even if his stoic glare suggested otherwise.

Everywhere they go they spread their love for the game, and there side is packed full of characters fulfilling their wildest dreams. That is what makes them appreciate every minute they spend at the World Cup, for they may never get such a chance again. The squads of Australia, South Africa, England, Wales and France all know there will probably be another World Cup for them, but not so Portugal.

So whilst they have taken their rugby seriously they have taken a refreshing mindset off the field. They have not locked themselves away from the media and fans, instead they have embraced the entire package that is their World Cup.

What price then for a Portuguese victory in their final game, one which they may actually go into as favourites. Surprising as that sounds for a team ranked 22nd in the world, Portugal have displayed a far superior brand of attacking rugby to Romania.

I for one will be right behind Os Lobos, a side who have found a special place in my heart, with their unique approach to a tournament that so desperately needed a breath of fresh air. Let us pray that the IRB recognise as much and endeavour to push the second-tier nations forward, so that come 2011, the World Cup matches will not be as one-sided and boring. And finally, dare I say it, Viva os Lobos! Fazer-nos sentir orgulhosos esta terça-feira. Boa sorte e obrigado!.

By Marcus Leach