015. The Greatest Drama

Costa Rica 1-1 Greece

Costa Rica advanced to the quarter-finals of Futbol Mundial 2014 by winning the penalty shootout 5-3 after 90 minutes of extra time.

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This game was a study in why we love, and love to hate, sport.

Before kickoff there were the back stories: Costa Rica the little brother making an improbable surge for glory, Greece seeking the balm of hope to assuage an economic catastrophe.  There were the debates about the different style of play, latin flair against dogged defence.

And the game itself presented enough twists and turns of plot to fuel a dozen Tarantino movies.  Costa Rica stayed in the match through some superb goalkeeping, and went ahead in the 52nd minute.

And then, and then, Duarte picks up his second yellow card in the 66th minute, and the Costa Ricans are reduced to ten men for the remainder. And they hold out and hold out into injury time, when Papastathopoulos scores the equaliser.

Extra time.  And all their legs are gone in the sweltering heat, especially the one man down Costas.  Look at the stats: 56% possession to the Greeks, 23 shots by Greece to Costa Rica’s 6, 11 corners to 3.  Just to survive was a kind of victory.

But there’s no such thing in tournament sport as a kind of victory.  “Do or do not. There is no try,” as Yoda says.

So it’s the exquisite Colliseum blood spectacle of a penalty shoot out.  Spotlights.  Baying crowds. Heroes and tragic heroes. Joy and despair by equal measure.

The point is that none of this was scripted.  It was a bunch of men, a ball, a field and some rules.  And nobody knew how it would end when it started.

When we watch a play or read a book or listen to a symphony, we know that there is a creative mind at work with an end already determined.  We’re along for the ride, and the performers’  skill is in how well we are caught up in it all.

But a game is never just a game, is it?  It’s struggle and hope and fear and the whole essence of life distilled to a powerful liquor, all wrapped up in something that does not matter. Except that it is a matter of life and death.

About Ned Davy

By hokey, the big fella’s tipped into his 50s. A rangy loose forward in his prime, good with the ball in hand, but rarely up with the play any more.
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