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Home >> Sports
UPDATED: 09:48, June 17, 2006
Joao Ricardo, hero of Angola
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Goalkeeper Joao Ricardo became the hero of Angola as his countless incredible saves on Friday in Hanover frustrated soccer giants Mexico and gifted the debutants their first-ever point in World Cup soccer finals.

The breath-taking duel in group D saw a goalless tie between Mexico and ten-man Angola.

Ricardo was named by FIFA Technical Studay Group as the Man of the Match.

He said after the match,"This is a very important match for us and we set up good image for our country."

He said that the Angolan team's next aim is to win Iran.

Veteran Ricardo had been without a club for the last 12 months. The 36-year-old was hoping to compete as Angola's first choice at the 2006 FIFA World Cup finals in Germany.

A pact with his coach, in which Joao Ricardo has promised to train every day, kept the Luanda-born goalkeeper still firmly in the plans of Luis Oliveira Goncalves, even though competitive action has been rare. The coach values his experience and leadership and the way in which Ricardo's fighting qualities seems to rub off positively on his younger team-mates.

Ricardo is one of several players whose connection with their homeland was re-established by a call-up to the country's national team. In late 1970s, many Angolans of Portuguese descent moved to Portugal and Ricardo went with his family to Portugal when only four years old.

He played first in his adopted home town of Leiria and then at Marrazes. His professional career began in his early 20s at Clube Academico de Futebol Viseu in Portugal's second division, where he played more than 100 league matches in four seasons up to mid-1998.

While at Viseu, Ricardo accepted an invitation from Manuel 'Neca' Gomes, the Portuguese coach of the Angolan side, to play in a FIFA World Cup qualifier and he sat on the bench as cover for Maurito. He was given three minutes of action in the second leg of a tie preliminary round tie when Angola were comfortably 5-1 ahead and sure of securing their place in the group phase of the African qualifiers for the 1998 finals in France.

Ricardo played in two more qualifying matches against Zimbabwe and Cameroon in 1997, but when he turned down a call-up to the squad for the 1998 CAF Africa Cup of Nations finals in Burkina Faso, he looked to have effectively killed off his international career.

Ricardo admits he did not fancy three weeks in the arid conditions, and was not surprised he was not called up by the Angolans again until mid-2004 when Oliveira Goncalves came calling in desperate need of an experienced goalkeeper.

He seemingly made his big breakthrough to Portugal's top flight when he moved to Salgueiros in 1998 but in three seasons with the club, he made just one appearance in the first team and was only able to get his career back on track when he dropped down a division with Moreirense in 2001.

He was back in the top division for the 2002/03 season and produced more consistent performances before Moreirense suffered relegation again. His contract was not renewed in mid-2004, leaving him to train at Portimonense while keeping his FIFA World Cup dreams alive.

Source: Xinhua

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