Thursday, June 15, 2006

Group A has only one ticket left for the second round, and this game can be the decider for the group. If Ecuador wins, the doors are closed. Then Germany and Ecuador will be drunk of the world cup dream, while Ecuador joins Poland in grieve. If Costa Rica wins, the suspense for the second place in Group A will maximize. A draw will keep all the doors open.
Costa Rica opens the game attacking on Ecuador. It seems they tip the balance of dominance in their favor. Ecuador counters, but both teams have difficulty structuring an attack.
In the eighth minute Costa Rica leaves the front door wide open, Ecuador's dream skyrockets. A striker has his shot blocked, and when the ball bounces back his way, he decides to pass it far right. Good decision, a teammate lobs the ball back into the penalty area. The Ecuadorian striker jumps above a sleeping defense of Costa Rica. His long hair swings forward while his forehead changes the direction of the ball.


"Like a quick counterpunch says the commentator," says the commentator. The delivery was a thing of beauty."
Ecuador takes over, Costa Rica hearts are broken. A defender of Ecuador heads a corner out to the halfway-line, and an opportunity is wasted. The stands are eerie quite. I suddenly realize it would be an expensive trip for fans of both sides. Flying cross-Atlantic, and buying the expensive entree- tickets is not cheap for anybody, and most people of Ecuador, or Costa Rica, will not have that kind of savings on their bank-account. The atmosphere seems to cool the game, what a difference the people in the stands can make.
However, both teams know what the stakes are, they keep focus. In the 34 minute, Mendez of Ecuador curves the ball nicely over the wall of Costa Rica back in the direction of the target, to bad the goal is not three feet higher.
"Why not shoot from longer range," suggest the commentator.
Instead, Ecuador goes deeper, on the flanks. The keeper of Costa Rica saves a sharp curve shot from the back line only by the skin of his reflexes. Ecuador is taking control, while Costa falls back, they seek the counters whenever they can steal the ball. Neither side can put the ball in the net before halftime, but the increase in tempo gives hope for the second half.
With an uneventful start of the second half, that promise is broken.
"Start shooting from wider range," suggest the commentator again. No reveal and we can have a bathroom brake while Ecuador gets a yellow card for time wasting. Not enough time to do decent business, Ecuador throws the switch. With a sharp shot, from an even sharper angle, they closed all the doors to the second round. The Keeper of Costa-Rica stretches his arms as if he wants to protect his face from the oncoming bullet. The ball finds its way in between the narrow space of the post and the keeper.


Costa Rica is in tears, Ecuador on cloud nine.
"Time is running out for Cost Rica, they need to find some inspiration, "says the commentator.
They nearly find it.
"When you thought they are as good as buried, they grab a lifeline," says the commentator. A striker of Costa Rica fires the ball exactly in the corner of the woodwork of the top right corner. The ball bounces straight down, inches in front of goal.
"He rips it of the crossbar."
In the 86 minute, Ecuador beats Costa Rica to the hidden inspiration. Convincingly, they locked the already closed doors to the second round.

Left was only for the referee to blow his whistle and seal them in.