Cometh the hour
It took just the right mix of magic and manoeuvre to produce one of this World Cup's most memorable goals. Arguably the greatest player ever seen, Lionel Messi toiled with his illustrious teammates against an impenetrable Iran defence. With four forwards leading the line, the men in the famous blue and white of the Albiceleste attacked with a vengeance from the get-go but Carlos Queiroz's men were not backing down from a fight. The Iranians defended in numbers, brutally at times, making Argentina's four-pronged attack a forgotten threat. Then, in the 91st minute, Messi struck. The one-man show sidestepped two defenders, opened up some space for himself and curled in a left-footer from 25 yards out. The match was sealed.
But more than Messi, there must have been something in the air on Saturday night. The magic refused to cease and a new set of new-age warlocks took to the pitch. As the Germans were pitted against the Ghanaians, many had already decided the result. Germany's rout of Portugal was fresh in everyone's memory but so was Ghana's unfair elimination in the last World Cup. Germany started brightly as expected but Kwesi Appiah's men had a game plan, one that they honed throughout the 90 minutes. When the Germans began their pressing game, the Ghanaians decided to nip the problem in the bud. Kevin-Prince Boateng and Sulley Muntari targeted Sami Khedira and Philip Lahm, eliminating any play from the middle. This helped push dangerman Thomas Mueller to the wings, whilst Mario Goetze moved in the central attacking role. Mesut Ozil, usually found on the left, found himself bruised and battered, despite making four chances for his team. It seemed that Ghana would bully Germany into submission.
However, Mueller, with three goals in one match already to his name, sent in a fine cross, from which Goetze equalised. Ghana's reaction was immediate, with substitute Andre Ayew getting in on the score sheet. Without warning, Ghana went on to take the lead, Muntari's vision and Asamoah Gyan's redemption fuelling them towards their second goal. With precious minutes left on the clock, all eyes turned towards Germany manager Joachim Loew. In a move that would have made Roy Hodgson proud, Loew, brushed aside the talents of youth like Andre Schurrle and opted instead to deploy mid-field legend Bastian Schweinsteiger and the evergreen Miroslav Klose. While many may have gone a different route, Loew knew what he was doing.
Klose, the best striker Germany has produced in recent years, grabbed the opportunity with both hands, scoring the ultimate equaliser, bringing Germany on equal terms with Ghana at 2-2 and equalling Brazilian great Ronaldo's record of 15 goals, a feat Klose achieved in 20 World Cup games. A somersault followed and the man many felt was already replaced proved his worth to the team, his manager and his detractors. The 36-year old, in what is surely his last World Cup, played the role he was born for. The Polish born forward, with a simple tap-in at the far post, had answered all his critics, sealed his legacy and proved his quality. It was time for us to eat humble-pie.
Ghana's clash with Germany had been one of the World Cup's best and it means that no one has made it out through the group and the battle here will be fought till the death. Many magical memories were made this magical night but none compared to the coming of age of one striker on the World Cup stage and the last bright burst from a fading star.