by G.D. Morrill
Yesterday Brazil played Peru in Foxborough, Mass. At stake was a birth in the quarterfinal round against Colombia, second place winner in the group with the USA. The USA would play Ecuador if they beat poor Haiti, which they did 4-0.
Peru had not beaten rival Brazil in 35 years, and the chances of doing it, even against their B team were slim and none. From the beginning, it was a Brazilian onslaught. It was obvious that Peru had to play defense against the uber-aggressive Brazilians. In the first half, the Brazilians had six shots on goal and six corner kicks, while Peru had zero in each category. Not a formula for success for Peru.
I must inform you, the readers, my wife is from Peru. She is the one who got me interested in the game to the point where I played for about 20 years. She is a rabid fan, yelling and screaming at the players on both sides, and especially at incompetent refs for perceived missed or incorrect calls. She played and coached for the past 40 years with great success. So, with that as the background, when the second half began, and Peru had not eliminated themselves, her angst increased exponentially.
My comment to her was that it would take a breakaway or a huge mistake by Brazil for Peru to score. However, we have seen many games where one team dominated, but couldn’t score, and the lesser team gets one chance and converts to win the game, and that is exactly what took place in this game.
In the second half, it was pretty much of the same, with Brazil continuing to dominate. My wife kept screaming that the Brazilians were using their arms to get clear of Peruvian players as they would move toward their goal and the ref refused to call it. In the 75th minute, Andy Polo ran up the right side, went to the end line and passed a ball in the air, which Raul Ruidiaz placed in the goal, with what looked like the left side of his torso with the goalie only inches away. The refs paused the game for four or five minutes, while they conferred with the fourth ref on the sideline and attempted to determine whether or not it was a legitimate goal
After several minutes of stoppage, the ref decided that in fact it was a legitimate goal and awarded it to Peru, to the approval of thousands of fanatical Peruvian fans in the stands. Once the goal was awarded, TV replays clearly showed that Ruidiaz had used his left hand to make the goal. My wife yelled that it was poetic justice as the Brazilians had used their hands to push off of Peruvian players for the whole game.
For their efforts, the Peruvian win means that Peru will play Colombia in the quarterfinals and once again be extreme underdogs, and the USA, surprising winners of their group, will play Ecuador on Thursday. Sometimes in soccer fairness takes a powder and justice prevails. Well, if not justice, at least satisfaction for a small South American country with a love of soccer which borders on the fanatical.
Just ask my wife!