WC: Saudi Arabia 2 – 2 Tunisia: Final
The following is what I wrote around the 90th minute of the KSA/TUN match. That was before the stoppage time. That was before Radhi Jaidi crushed the spirits of millions of Saudis and lifted the hearts of millions of Tunisians. I don’t think his 92nd minute goal changes the spirit of what I wrote about the drama of soccer. Instead of Al Jaber becoming the center of every story written about this match, he becomes one or two graphs and Jaidi becomes the star. It’s sport at its truest. The idea of fate and that exquisite moment for which we all search.
That’s World Cup drama. Down 1-0 at the half, the Saudis come out and get the equalizer relatively quickly. They dominate the second half of the game in possession, shots, and sheer energy.
Then the masterstroke. At the 80th minute, the manager decides to sub in Sami Al Jaber, who is the wizened old man of Saudi soccer. The man has played in four World Cups and is arguably the best player to ever come out of Saudi Arabia. Prior to this, the manager has put in two strikers already. He is going for the win. The Saudis will not be content with a 1-1 tie and only 1 point facing what looks to be a dominant Spanish team, judging from their 4-0 dismantling of the Ukraine earlier in the day.
So, Al Jaber enters the game, has a slight touch at midfield and a minute later, a beautiful through pass finds him streaking down the left side. He’s in behind the back line of the Tunisians who are miles away from him. He faces down the Tunisian goalie and calmly, yet authoritatively pushes low to the far post. It’s bedlam for the Saudi fans.
That’s the drama that fans of soccer hope for at the World Cup. The manager is lauded as a genius. A great player gets maybe a final moment in the sun and all seems right in the world.