The Run of Play is a blog about
the wonder and terror of soccer.
We left the window open during a match in October 2007 and a strange wind blew into the room.
Now we walk the forgotten byways of football with a lonely tread, searching for the beautiful, the bewildering, the haunting, and the absurd.
It’s hard to take for Petr Čech’s sake: one of my favorite players, and one who’s already dealt with a heartbreaking loss this summer. Also in a game that took place under driving rain, and that somehow became more than it was supposed to even as the sales pitch surrounding it told us it was supposed to become so much. The moment of actual greatness demonstrating the ability to overcome even the skepticism induced by your average match hype.
I fell hard for Turkey in the second half of this match. Hopelessly outclassed in the first half, they came back with the right tactical adjustments and with a cold style of grieving retribution. The flooded midfield couldn’t stop Plasil from making it 2-0, and at that point it was as if the conflict thinned away for them and punishing the Czechs was just a drastic way to mourn their own failure. Nihat never looked so alive as he did when he thought they’d killed him. The team never looked like surviving until they’d suffered the mortal blow.
They were playing posthumously, in other words, which may be why there was an almost spiritual element to the last twenty minutes of the match, at least if a spiritual element can be reconciled with that late-siege drawbridge frenzy. Obviously the players were out of their minds (in high and, in the case of the red-carded Volkan, low ways) and tension was loose on the grass; but if you were going to put the last two goals to a soundtrack, it would have to be one of those eerie-quiet soprano dirges that drift in during the bloodiest part of the movie battle, when the sound of the fighting fades away and the savagery moves in slow-motion.
This isn’t, of course, a sensible thing to say about a soccer match, but it was an extraordinary game and I wanted to get down some part of the feeling.
Pedestrian themes: are we sure that Nihat’s last goal was onside? Did Volkan deserve the red card? Will Turkey have a chance against Croatia without him?
If only it hadn’t been Čech’s mistake that led to Nihat’s equalizer. Punch the ball when it’s raining. I feel pulled in two different ways.
by Brian Phillips · June 15, 2008