Newspaper article International New York Times

A World Cup Where It Pays to Stay until the End

Newspaper article International New York Times

A World Cup Where It Pays to Stay until the End

Article excerpt

During a 24-hour span Friday and Saturday, six nations from widely diverse cultures put their different styles on display with stark and contagious energy.

For all the ills and money that distort soccer, we have just seen what makes it such a compelling global game. During a 24-hour span Friday and Saturday, six nations from widely diverse cultures fought with fervent and stark and contagious energy.

Costa Rica beat Italy. Iran lost out in the final moments, not so much to Argentina, but to the genius that is Lionel Messi. And Germany traded goals with Ghana until barely any player had energy left to walk off the field as the game ended 2-2.

That is the point of this story: Left to the players, this might still be the beautiful game. These players can sense that the host country, Brazil, has special feelings for the sport. And the teams from the Americas, Africa, Asia and Europe are giving every ounce in their different styles.

There is something remarkable about the way that Costa Rica, a country of fewer than five million people, found itself drawn into a group with three former world champions and so far has beaten two of them. "We love the group," the Costa Rican coach Jorge Luis Pinto had said when the draw was made last December. "The braver the bull, the better the bullfight."

Even he might not have envisaged Los Ticos coming from a goal down to defeat Uruguay 3-1 in the opening weekend of the tournament and then mastering Italy, tactically and technically, in Friday's 1- 0 win in Recife, Brazil.

The bulls have the matadors on the run. If Costa Rica can do that, what has anyone to fear from having a go at a bigger opponent? Iran, organized by its Portuguese coach Carlos Queiroz, went toe-to- toe Saturday with Argentina, one of the favorites to win this World Cup.

Neither side had scored for 90 minutes. Iran's players had worked like soldiers to prevent Messi and Sergio Aguero and Gonzalo Higuain from scoring in the first half, but then the Iranians -- Team Melli - - created the better openings after the break.

Reza Ghoochannejhad, a striker who has played for clubs in the Netherlands, Belgium and England, at times seemed to conduct his own one-on-one duel with the Argentine goalkeeper, Sergio Romero. Television replays showed that his colleague, Ashkan Dejagah, should have been awarded a penalty kick when his leg was taken out in a rash tackle by Pablo Zabaleta.

"A penalty, 100 percent," the Iranian told the BBC. "But that's football. What we did was show that we can play a team like Argentina."

Play the team, yes. But in the first minute of added time, Messi became unplayable or unstoppable. The Argentine had been largely contained, his steps hounded by two and sometimes three men in red shirts throughout the contest.

But then, with four defenders retreating in front of him, the one Iranian who tried to shut down Messi's space made a crucial error. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.