Wednesday, July 2, 2014

The Drama, Made For TV

It's 5 in the afternoon Tuesday, and it appears the entire country has stopped to watch a soccer game.

And who ever thought they'd see that?

A few hours ago, TigerBlog saw the end of the Argentina-Switzerland game. The Argentines scored in the final seconds of stoppage time to win 1-0 in what was part of a five-minute stretch of what might have been the very best live television he's ever seen.

Well, other than when the Giants won the Super Bowl against the Patriots when they were undefeated. And the Miracle on Ice game against the Soviet Union wasn't televised live.

Argentina-Switzerland was. And the end was insane enough. What the TV production did was even more astonishing.

The goal came on a nice breakout, and the replays of the shot itself showed how agonizingly close the Swiss goalkeeper came to getting his hand on it. Those were great pictures themselves, though they were eclipsed completely by what happened next.

First, there was the closeup of No. 2 from Switzerland, who had closed from far off the play only to come up just short of stopping it. And, as the goal came in the 119th minute, it was clear that it was going to take a lot of the Swiss to have a chance to tie.

And so there was No. 2, inside the goal where the ball had just been, with his face sticking through the mesh in the back, with a look on his face that was a combination of total exhaustion and total resignation that it was likely over for his team. And smartly, the TV truck stayed with him. It was as poignant a shot as TB can remember.

Except it wasn't quite over.

The Swiss came back the other way, and - with the goalkeeper in the box - had another player knock a header off the side goalpost, and then just miss the put-back after that. The replays were great, and the reactions of the announcers conveyed the sheer astonishment of the miracle that was oh-so-close but would not be achieved.

As for the U.S., now it's the second half. The Americans are playing Belgium, and it's scoreless in the second half. Tim Howard appears to be the reason why.

The knockout round can turn into a hold-on-and-pray-to-get-to-penalty-kicks situation, something that the Costa Ricans did to perfection Sunday. Los Ticos, whom TB and TigerBlog Jr. are both on board 100% with after seeing a World Cup qualifier in the country two years ago against El Salvador during the men's lacrosse team's trip there, were a man down for most of the second half and both overtimes.

Costa Rica tried desperately to hold onto its 1-0 lead, only to have Greece tie it in stoppage time. But the Costa Ricans managed to hold on through 30 additional minutes and then went an impressive 5 for 5 in PKs to get the win.

TBJ was texting back-and-forth with Diego Quesada, who was one of Princeton's three tour guides on the trip, during the game. It's hard to really comprehend what it means to such a small country to get to the World Cup quarterfinals, but perhaps this exchange will give some insight:

Diego: We did it!!!!!!
TBJ: Yes, I saw. It was fantastic.
Diego: Bro, how I cried!!!!!!

That sums it up.

TigerBlog has written this before, but he was late coming to the World Cup party. It wasn't until 2006 that he was really interested; he hardly missed a game in 2010.

He is fascinated by how much the World Cup has been embraced now in this country. TB never thought he'd see that.

Princeton's ESPNU contract will feature two soccer games this fall, the men against Georgetown and the women against Villanova. The men have been on several times before during Princeton's time with ESPN; this will be the first time for the women.

TB wonders if the choice that ESPNU made to do two soccer games, including one women's game, has something to do with the World Cup and its ratings. Yes, ESPNU will like it because it loves events that fit into tidy time slots, and soccer is one of those.

TB thinks this is more a soccer-related thing than a time-slot related thing though. And hey, it's great for Princeton.

Myslik Field at Roberts Stadium is a great venue, one of the best for college soccer in the U.S. anywhere. Having two games on ESPNU will be a great way to showcase the facility and for the two Princeton teams.

Meanwhile, the U.S. continues to play a scoreless game against Belgium, and the drama builds. The best part of all of this could possibly be the commentators, especially Ian Darke, who is as absolutely good as it gets. He's like Mike Emrick.

Hey, maybe he can do one of the games at Princeton this fall.

Now that would be tremendous.

And now it's an hour later, and the U.S. has lost 2-1. It was 0-0 at the end of regulation, 2-0 Belgium at the end of the first 15-minute extra session - and then the last 15 minutes was again amazing drama.

The U.S. scored- Michael Bradley to 19-year-old Julian Green - and then almost tied it on a ridiculous play off a free kick. It just wasn't to be - despite an epic performance by Howard.

The World Cup marches on now, without the U.S. team. The Americans did better four years ago under Bob Bradley than they did this year with Jurgen Klinsmann, since the U.S. won its group last time and finished second this time before losing both times in the first game of the knockout round.

Perhaps if the U.S. had shown up against Germany instead of being contest to lose, then it might still be playing, since it would have been Algeria instead of Belgium.

Not that it matters now. TigerBlog will still be into it.

With drama like this, who could shut off the TV?

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