The paths of Shaka Hislop and Steven Gerrard cross again in Nuremberg on Thursday, a month after Liverpool's captain made the earth move in the Millennium Stadium and the West Ham goalkeeper tumbled down one of the cracks. If the veteran goalkeeper's part in a battling display by Trinidad & Tobago against Sweden is any guide, their reunion will be more like third-round day in the FA Cup than the final itself.
It may have been a baking day in Dortmund, with World Cup points at stake and the towering stands awash with yellow and red, but the occasion was reminiscent of lower-division underdogs and Premiership giants scrapping on a mud-heap before one 10th of Saturday's crowd. Hislop completed the illusion with one of those timelessly defiant displays in which 37-year-old custodians specialise every January.
Adding spice to a story already hotter than Trinidadian curried goat, Hislop had expected to sit out the contest as understudy to Kelvin Jack until the Dundee player aggravated a calf injury during the warm-up. Suddenly, with Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Henrik Larsson bearing down on him and T&T being forced to play almost the entire second half with 10 men, it was like facing Gerrard and Co in Cardiff all over again.
"I felt old out there!" Hislop said after crowning a series of swooping stops and reflex saves with a brilliant parry when Marcus Allbäck looked certain to make the Swedish siege pay off in the closing minutes. "I only got the nod to start the game 10 minutes before kick-off, which probably suited me better. I didn't have to play many mind games with myself. I was happy just to deal with things as and when they happened."
On the prospect of confronting his Scouse nemesis, Hislop remarked with pleasing understatement that it would be "nice" to keep a clean sheet this time. "It's a completely different setting, different teams and a different set of motivations. We knew this one was going to be hard, and it got harder 30 seconds into the second half." That was when Avery John became the first player sent off in this tournament after his second yellow card.
Hislop received resolute protection from defenders with clubs more accustomed to backs-to-the-wall performances at Peterborough or Bury than shackling strikers from Juventus and Barcelona. Marshalling it all was a player whose name, like his new role as a holding midfielder, is calculated to raise smiles and eyebrows in the England camp.
Dwight Yorke is now 34 and the former striker's determination to make the most of his belated chance on the global stage was palpable. The last man to leave the pitch, when his grin was as wide as the Ruhr, he placed the result "up there" in the litany of his career achievements with the Treble to which he helped Manchester United.
"This was a massive point for us," the T&T captain said. "I'm not saying we're going through, but we needed this if we were going to have a chance. It will give us confidence for the England match. We watched the first half of their match with Paraguay and they weren't as convincing as you know they can be, but I still know what to expect.
"It will be a special moment for me, walking out alongside David Beckham, along with Gary Neville, Rio Ferdinand and others I've played with and against over the past 18 years. We've shown people we're not just here for the ride. They now realise that we can cause problems. And we did not play to our maximum; we can play better."
T&T carried little attacking threat to concern England's spies, apart from a shot by Cornell Glen that twanged the bar. Yet they overcame both a nervous opening and Avery John's recklessness, their approach having the experience and wisdom of coach Leo Beenhakker stamped all over it.
The Dutchman's game plan might have been stillborn had the Swedes struck early. Their captain, Olof Mellberg, admitted the longer they went without scoring, "the more frustrating it became". Based on the number of chances they had carved out, he added: "England probably won't find it as hard against them. They'll create at least as many as we did, and on a normal day I think they'll win." Would Sweden have to win both remaining fixtures to advance, including England in Cologne a week tomorrow? "Definitely not," said the Aston Villa defender. "It'll probably be enough to beat Paraguay."
But the last word, as in the match, belonged to Hislop. "We proved a lot to ourselves and we can take that into the England game. We probably know them better than anyone in the tournament because so many of our players ply their trade in Britain. So we'll be ready for the challenge."
Sweden (4-4-2): Shaaban (Fredrikstad); Alexandersson (Gothenburg), Mellberg (Aston Villa), Lucic (BK Hacken), Edman (Rennes); Wilhelmsson (Anderlecht), Linderoth (Copenhagen), A Svensson (Elfsborg), Ljungberg (Arsenal); Ibrahimovic (Juventus), Larsson (Barcelona). Substitutes used: Allbäck (Copenhagen) for A Svensson, 62; Jonson (Djurgarden) for Linderoth, 78; Kallstrom (Rennes) for Wilhelmsson, 78.
Trinidad & Tobago (4-1-4-1): Hislop (West Ham); Gray (San Juan Jabloteh), Sancho (Gillingham), Lawrence (Wrexham), A John (New England Revolution); Yorke (Sydney FC); Edwards (Luton), Birchall (Port Vale), Theobald (Falkirk), Samuel (Dundee United); S John (Coventry). Substitutes used: Glen (LA Galaxy) for Samuel, 53; Whitley (SJ Jabloteh) for Theobald, 67.
Referee: S Maidin (Singapore).
Booked: Trinidad & Tobago A John, Yorke; Sweden Larsson.
Sent off: Trinidad & Tobago A John (46).Reuse content