World Cup 2014: Hang on a second! Whose moment is this?

Sometimes when you plan your defence so carefully, the power of your offence can even take YOU by surprise

Sometimes being considered the best player in the world is more about continuing to have a go, than jumping into your bag of tricks, threatening to never come out unless you get the ball exactly when and how you want.

Sometimes the moments of genius are buried too deep to be mined, no matter how earnestly you look. Sometimes your opponents can have a great deal to do with that.

Lionel Messi never stopped looking. He didn’t hide behind the exasperation of not being allowed to play his game. He remained dedicated to trying, while Iran’s players realised belatedly that their own belief and dedication, were more than equal to even this most daunting situation.

The key weight-bearing framework of their, determined to be impregnable wall, Ashkan Dejagah, grew monolithic before our watching eyes in the second half. His words, actions and demeanour providing the bedrock of belief his teammates needed to show they had more weapons in their arsenal, than the eminently evident defensive shell.

Iran began to feel comfortable in their boots, which led this tactically astute, intrinsically bonded group, to find the confidence to read the situation as it lay in front of them. Playing in the moment, instead of through the imprisoning prism of fear – born of too much respect – led by Dejagah & Haji Safi, Iran started to accept and create, instead of continuing to just deny, deny, deny … space, time and comfort to their ‘vaunted’ opposition.

The three best chances of the second half, in the forty-five minutes allotted of regular time belonged to Iran. Finally, they started chasing the moment, if not with the gay abandon of a leaping lepidopterist chasing a new species of butterfly, at least with the cautious discipline and belief that they could DO something here.

Perhaps belief came too late to be seasoned with accuracy. Perhaps the Iranians were right in their initial assumptions all along. Whatever the case, the closer they approached the previously unthought of, now nakedly attainable goal, the more clearly asymptotic it became.

Whether through bad luck, possible official misadventure or, the minutest deficit of ability in the moment, when compared to their opponents, Iran couldn’t find the finish their attacking renaissance deserved.

They did manage to get to 90 minutes still deadlocked at 0-0. Rather comfortably in fact. While the Iranians might have been belatedly feeling that score, on this place, this day, might have been an injustice to what they had been able to unexpectedly find, one could argue such a score would have been as ambitious a pre-match expectation as their cautious coach, Carlos Quieroz, would have allowed to be divined.

And cometh the moment, with four minutes of added time still to come, there Iran were. As close as they would have hoped, but perhaps a little chagrined at how far behind what they actually produced, had given them the chance to be.

And it was in this place where the greatness of Messi finally found them. Though his genius had been frustratingly buried and even occasionally endangered, Messi never stopped digging away, expecting that game winning nugget to reveal itself.

And that was the difference. Where Iran found belated belief through hope, Messi found it within himself to expect, because his belief was constant. More, that belief was strong enough that what Messi eventually produced was manifestly not, ‘a blind squirrel finding an acorn, once in awhile’, but reinforcement that a champion athlete has it within themselves to be a master of any moment.

Like a child playing with its toys, lost to the wider implications, Messi’s champion nature allowed him to embrace the moment, exactly the way that child would. It allowed him to control the moment, everyone and everything within it, the way that child did … godlike.

His sweetly timed curving shot, spinning around and through and past each and every obstacle, until it hit the back of the net like a dervish, was both a nerve severing, hope blistering, belief destroying bomb … And entirely expected.

The enormity of the moment did not stop Messi from trying. The hope and belief they had found and cultivated, did not stop the desperately unfortunate Iranians from collapsing to the ground, marionettes that had just had their strings cruelly garotted.

All that belief sucked out by a moment from a man who has long been able to reconcile and accept the greatness of what he can do.


  1. ned_wilson says

    Lovely writeup. You just have to love the World Cup – Iran absolutely held their own only to be undone by a superstar. Great entertainment.

  2. Louise Dorian says

    Wow Gregor. That was a great report. Thanks

  3. Gregor Lewis says

    Thanks for the encouragement Ned & Louise.

    You’re absolutely right Ned, and that’s why the World Cup is the acme of entertainment in sport, for mine.

    There are countless ways to derive satisfaction from what you’re watching. Myriad outcomes to bring participants & spectators alike joy … Relatively speaking.


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