Sports Features of Mon, 23 Jun 201440
Thank you, Germany and Ghana
The ESPN FC expert panel breakdown the day's games in chronological order and highlight some of the best plays and surprises.
FORTALEZA, Brazil -- Please forgive me, but I'm sitting in the airport in Fortaleza, waiting for an onward flight to Recife -- Croatia vs. Mexico! -- and I have no one else to share this with: I am as happy as I've been in my time here in Brazil, and it's because I was in the stadium on Saturday when Germany and Ghana played one of the great World Cup games.
You always hope that you're going to see something like that, of course, and for some cosmic reason, this particular tournament has rarely disappointed. But yesterday's 2-2 draw was a special one, and it's becoming only more special now that I've had some time to think about it.
One reason it was beautiful was that it provided two halves of the sport at its divided best. The first half, if you like tactical, intellectual football, was custom-built just for you. The Ghanaian back four played in a line like foosball players. The Germans passed the ball around with precision, looking for an opening, like a boxer searching for a tender spot. In hindsight, that there were only occasional breaks (including a couple for the Ghanaians) served to crank up the tension.
And then that second half. What an explosion. I'm not good enough with words to describe how it feels in a World Cup stadium when a game suddenly cracks open. It feels different from other events in other stadiums. There is just an overwhelming sonic energy, a sustained crackle that runs through the place, wave after wave going around and around. And the Ghanaian fans especially: They are such good company. They are irrepressible.
But here's what has dawned on me only with time. For a game that was so frantic, it was so clean. There was a single yellow card, in injury time in the second half. (Well done, Brazilian referee Sandro Ricci.) There were no imagined damages that I can recall. There was no dirt, no anger, nothing like outrage or condescension. The only looks of disbelief were on the faces of the fans. I can remember at least three instances when players on one team helped up players on the other. When a shirtless man invaded the pitch, even he received an embrace from Sulley Muntari, who then gently guided the visitor off the pitch.
That's what made this match: It was a demonstration of love. It was joyous. Even though neither team won, it felt like one great, long celebration. It was football giving us everything good it has to offer. In South Africa in 2010, the Black Stars provided the game of the tournament for me in their heartbreak loss against Uruguay. By the time this World Cup is over, I suspect I'll feel as though they granted me that favor once again, this time against Germany.
Thank you to Ghana. Thank you to Germany. Thank you to Brazil. Thank you for this perfect game.