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.