Saturday, July 3, 2010

Saves of the Tournament

Did you see those two incredible saves yesterday?  In both of yesterday's games the ball was arcing toward the net when out of nowhere came a hand to swat the ball away.  Both stops are being mentioned as the save of the tournament.  Yet, only one will be registered as a legitimate save in the stats book. 

It's rare that saves are the bigger talking points than goals in games, but both of yesterdays saves are worthy.

In the first match of the day, Brazil had already scored an early, typical Brazilian goal, filled with panache and skill, and it looked as if they were about to score another.  Then, in the 30th minute, Robinho battled through two challengers yet somehow got the ball to Luis Fabiano who one-timed a backheel into Kaka's path.  Kaka did what Kaka does, whipping a wicked, curling shot headed for the far corner.  Rio was already celebrating their trip to the semifinals when Dutch goalkeeper Maarten Stekelenburg did his best Plastic Man impression, somehow stretching his arm to beyond normal length to palm the ball away.  It was simply a world class save and one that set the table for the second half come from behind dramatics from the Netherlands. 


The second save was more controversial, but doubtlessly more important to the outcome of the match in which it occurred.   In the 120th minute, Ghana and Uruguay were headed toward PKs, when Ghana wins a free kick with seconds left.  The ensuing free kick leads to a few moments of pandemonium in the area (was Stephen Appiah offside?) culminating in a double-handed goal line punch by Uruguay's diminutive forward Luis Suarez that prevented a Ghanaian goal that would have seen them into the semifinals.

It appeared that the save may have only delayed the game winning goal from Ghana a few seconds as the referee was absolute in his judgement to send off Suarez and award a penalty to Ghana.  However, in the closest thing to a walk-off homerun opportunity that soccer can provide, Gyan crashed the ball off the crossbar to allow La Celeste a second life in the PKs.  The Uruguayans would not waste the gift from the soccer gods, and cruelly for the Africans, they went down to two legitimate penalty saves from the Uruguayan goalkeeper.  BTW, how about the cojones on Sebastian Abreu to chip the winning PK down the middle?!

No doubt about it, the Suarez save was an illegal play, and FIFA is reviewing the play to see if the mandatory one game suspension should be extended (Which leads me to ask, if FIFA can review this play, why can't they review dives and all of the other nefarious nonsense that goes on during a match?).  As for whether Suarez should be castigated for what some are calling the Hand of Satan (really?), it's a fascinating ethical debate, and I'm sure the answer lies in whose team you support.

As a neutral, I couldn't think of a more exciting way to end a match.  It was Hollywood type stuff.  Incredible.  Let's hope the World Cup will have a few more surprises for us.


  1. This is the smartest play (the intentional handball) considering the circumstances that I have ever seen in a soccer game, period. Brilliant.

  2. As the rules stand everything played out correctly after Suarez set up a penalty kick that should never have been, and a shoot out that should never have come. But Luis Suarez's "The Hand of Satan/La Mano de Diablo" goal tending play is absolutely not Godly or Heroic. I am writing to fair minded soccer fans who do not want such a fate that befell Ghana to fall on their own teams. I hope to inspire you to lobby FIFA to get the Goal tending rules changed for the good of every nation. It is too late for Ghana. Uruguayans calling Suarez a hero for goal tending and setting up a penalty kick which was missed and a shoot out which should never have happened is a cancer that can spread to every tournament unless fair minded fans speak out! If someone, other than a goalie, deliberately stops a goal with their hand on the line inorder to advance their team in the knock out stages, the denied goal should be awarded. Not a penalty kick which can be missed. FIFA must stop this cycle of people faking injuries, diving in the box, scoring with their hands, stopping goals with hand balls. It's rediculous!!! Now... as the rules stand... imagine the roles were reversed. Imagine Gyan was on his goal line and he volleyball handled a Uruguay shot out of the goal and was eventually red carded. Now imagine Suarez missed the ensuing penalty kick leading to a shoot out. And once again imagine Ghana won the penalty shoot out to move on to the semis. And further imagine the whole African continent hailed Gyan as a Hero for goal tending. It would all be correct as the rules stand... but it would be a complete embarassment for African soccer and for FIFA. Goal tending needs severe consequences so it never happens again. Goal tending should result in the other team being awarded a point with no penalty kick. The ball was in, and a striker volleyball handled it off the line intentionally. Ghana did not fail. They were cheated by FIFAs inadequate goal tending rules. A threat to justice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. It's too late for Ghana. But as long as Suarez is considered a hero, more heros like him will emerge and "The Hand of Satan/La Mano de Diablo" will prevail in future World Cups.

  3. maybe so....

    but until those rules are changed, his play was smart.

  4. It was a pure instinctual split-second decision (reaction?)...Gyan makes the penalty kick and none of this is an injustice.