Brazil/Melo, Ghana/Gyan, and the slender margin between heroic and tragic

Asamoah Gyan is comforted by teammates after his missed penalty at the end of extra time cost Ghana a trip to the World Cup semi finals

Today’s events in the tournament had an air of unreality. Perhaps the settings in which I watched (KOA campground in Missoula, Montana and Missoula’s Iron Horse Brew Pub) contributed to this, nevertheless, I couldn’t help feeling watching the games were taking place in some sort of alternative universe.

 

Of course this World Cup has presented many such moments where the presence of an alternate reality seemed palpable. In these universes, Landon Donovan does not score against Algeria in the 91st minute, eliminating Slovenia, Trevor Lampard’s goal against Germany is given and England goes on to defeat Germany, the assistant Referee does see Teves offside, and Mexico upset Argentina. In the alternate world cup universe of today’s quarter finals Felipe Melo of Brazil and Asamoah Gyan were heroes for their teams - Melo for sending Robinho through for the opening goal in a game thoroughly dominated by the Brazilians, and Gyan for scoring on the penalty at the end of extra time which made Ghana the first African side to reach the semi finals. Unfortunately and tragically for Melo and Gyan despite their fine play, the day will be remembered for their failures rather than their successes. Melo was doubly cursed, first knocking Brazilian keeper Cesar away from a Wesley Sneider cross only to touch it into his own net for the goal that gave Holland life, and then for earning a red card for foolishly stamping on Arjen Robben’s leg. The margin between success and failure for Gyan was even slimmer. Gyan kicked two penalties within the space of a few minutes. If the second penalty had been kicked first Ghana would be going on to a well-earned place in the semi finals and Uruguay would be going home. However, in the universe which we live in, Gyan’s first penalty hit the top of the crossbar and went over, opening the way for Uruguay to win the penalty shootout.

 

The margin between success and failure at the world cup is that slender.

The Dutch victory now ensures that at least one of the participants in the final, either Uruguay or Holland, will not be one of the perennial favourites.

 

Tomorrow Sammy and I will be rafting, so our ability to comment on the two quarter finals is uncertain.

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