I’m not kidding. That’s gotta be the most excruciating loss ever, right? Let’s review.
The last African nation left in Africa’s first World Cup fights for a chance to be the first African nation in a World Cup semifinal. They’re the youngest team in the tournament, an underdog against a physical foe featuring two of the world’s finest finishers.
They take a grueling 1-1 battle into extra time. In the 122nd minute, the last attack of the game, they send a free kick into the box, and suddenly it can only find attackers. The keeper bats one ball away, a defender blocks another with his body, and as the third shot comes in, an opposing striker has no choice but to punch the ball away. Red card. Penalty. IN THE 122′. Elation. Madness. The entire continent is going nuts, one of the most dramatic victories in World Cup history about to be delivered.
Their most experienced penalty shooter steps up to take his team to the semis. One shot for all the marbles from a guy who’s already hit two PKs in the tournament.
And he hits it off the bar. No good.
With his second chance, that star nails his first penalty in the shootout. But his teammates aren’t so lucky, and after 2 saves from a sharp opponent, the victory slips away.
I’d like to go back and talk about two of the better goals in the tournament — one from distance by Muntari and a swirler a few minutes later off a free kick by Forlan — but those moments feel like distant emotional echoes compared to everything that transpired from 122′ on.
Luis Suarez was the striker who threw the punch that saved Uruguay’s Cup dreams. I’ve never been a fan of cheating to win, but did he really cheat? He broke the rules, like fouling a guy on the break, and he took the punishment. He stopped a surefire goal from going in the net and gave his goalie (known as a good PK stopper) a small chance to keep Uruguay alive. Or, I suppose, give Gyan a chance to choke it away, which is precisely what happened. Suarez will miss the Netherlands game, but they’re only playing it because he punched that ball away at the death. Will a red card ever be more celebrated?
And poor Gyan. Really, to have a nation on your back is pressure, but the entire home continent? ‘Suffocating’ doesn’t do it justice, and sure enough, it did him in. I’m genuinely heartbroken for the guy.
What an amazing day of football. Brazil’s meltdown, the most dramatic PK in recent (all of?) history missed, hero worship of Suarez and Sneijder, devastating failures by Felipe Melo and Gyan… tomorrow can’t possibly top it. Can it?