The five most bittersweet moments of the World Cup


(Thomas Eisenhuth/EPA)

The World Cup was filled with a lot of triumphant moments, such as when U.S. goalkeeper Tim Howard broke a World Cup record and made an amazing 15 saves during the team’s round-of-16 match against Belgium. The American side ultimately lost, but the magic of Howard’s tremendous effort made the defeate feel a whole lot better. But triumph outweighing sorrow wasn’t always the rule. There are a least five examples of the opposite happening — moments that should have been joyful were instead steeped in sadness. Truly, the World Cup put our emotions through the wringer this year.

1. Germany’s 7-1 win over Brazil in the semifinals.

Germany made history last week when it put on a clinic against one of the toughest soccer teams around. But then ESPN flashed a crying Brazilian child across the screen. And somewhere around the fifth or sixth German goal, the above photo of the saddest man ever went viral and we all cried.

2. Lee Keun-Ho’s goal against Russian goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev.

South Korean fans were ecstatic to have scored against the group favorites, but the rest of the world watched in horror as the Koreans’ triumph was outshone by Akinfeev’s shame. The Russian mishandled the ball and watched it fall almost in slow motion into the net. That was uncomfortable to watch.

3. The Netherlands’ penalty kick game-winner against Mexico in the round of 16.

Mexico, the underdog, managed to hold its own against a very strong Dutch team until the last minute — literally — when Arjen Robben made the most of a slightly misplaced Mexican defender’s foot and fell like a fainting Hollywood heroine to the ground. The ref awarded the penalty and Mexico’s oh-so-close World Cup dreams came to an end. You couldn’t help but feel its disappointment.

4. Brazil’s opening-game win over Croatia.

Everyone had high hopes for the home team, but things weren’t going all that great. That’s when some say the Japanese referee Yuichi Nishimura stepped in. He disallowed a Croatian goal because of a foul and then awarded Brazil a penalty kick when Fred fell dramatically to the pitch after getting barely tapped on the left arm. Brazil got the winning goal and the world got a lot of speculation about a crooked referee.

5. Brazil’s win over Colombia in a hard-fought quarterfinal match.

It was hard to celebrate when you were worried about Neymar’s broken back. The Brazilian standout suffered a fractured vertebra after a bad challenge from Colombia’s Juan Zuniga. The silver lining? Neymar’s injury does not require surgery and he is expected to make his full recovery in four to six weeks.

Marissa Payne writes for The Early Lead, a fast-breaking sports blog, where she focuses on what she calls the “cultural anthropological” side of sports, aka “mostly the fun stuff.” She is also an avid WWE fan.
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