Tuesday, March 2, 2010

(Belated) Monday Mudita

The finish by Barcalona striker Lionel Messi is so clinical that this goal almost seems pedestrian. But don't be dissuaded by the ease with which he takes the chance. Watch this play develop. Watch the movement of the entire offense. And the masterful way that the pass before the assist totally unlocks the defense as if he'd been given a key. Watch. And then consider that this goal came in the 85th minute of a tie game. Watch. Consider. And then remember that the Catalans are fighting tooth and nail with Real Madrid in La Liga. Watch. Consider. Remember.

It's really all about the incisive pass from Xavi to Dani Alves. Xavi threads that ball through, or past, five bunched-together Malaga defenders and leads Alves right to the goal. Rather than have at it from there and potentially get stuffed from the onrushing goalkeeper, though, Alves slides the ball on a line across to Messi, who never cut off his run once it looked like he wasn't getting the ball. As previously mentioned, the Argentine cooly slotted the ball into the net. That goal put Barca in front of a pesky Malaga group, 2-1, and kept them on top of the standings in Spain.

This game-winner was geometry. It makes me, even if just for a moment, understand what people far more intelligent than I mean when they take about the beauty of mathematics. Angles. Straight lines. Triangles. Stephen Hawking couldn't have drawn up a better goal.

“Pure mathematics is, in its way, the poetry of logical ideas.” - Albert Einstein


Anonymous said...

Could it be a clearer offside? Watch the 1:01 mark....
Not an offside on the pass, but once he gets the ball, the refs should've called it

Anonymous said...

Um, I don't know if you follow soccer, but if the receiving player is onside when the pass is made, then by definition the player is onside.

That's the whole point of the article - the pass was anticipated perfectly.

Anonymous said...

It's not offsides. Messi is behind the ball when Alves passes it, therefore he can't be offsides.

The goal is wonderful because of the entire string of passes preceding it. The Malaga defence is not only moved laterally but vertically by the short passing combinations. It's that movement which created the lane for Xavi's through ball to Alves. This is a textbook video to teach any team the value of passing and one-touch football.

WWOD? said...

Yeah, I've got to sides with Anonymous No. 2 and Anonymous No. 3 on this one. The 1:00 mark actually shows that Alves is onside as the Xavi strikes the ball. He does receive it in the offside position but that is irrelevant. The timing was absolutely perfect. Which, I guess, means it was close to being offside. But that's sort of like saying that rain when it's 33 degrees outside is close to being snow. Technically that may be true, but it totally misses the point. Cold rain is not snow. And that goal is awesome.

Also, do you follow soccer?

Anonymous said...

If you stop the clip when the ball is struck, Alves is a half step behind the last defender, he was offside, not Messi.

WWOD? said...

I actually don't see it that way. When I stop the tape as Xavi's foot first comes to meet the ball (rather then when space first appears between his foot and the ball on the pass) it looks to me that Alves is level or a step still onside. There's no doubt he was flying past the defender just as (or just before/after) the pass was slotted through the defense. But like I wrote and like everyone said, this play was phenomenally executed. Xavi's pass was insightful and anticipatory.

The raised hands of the defenders is merely the last-gasp defense mechanism of a flat-footed beaten group. I've been there. I've raised that hand.

Regardless, we're talking about the difference of one frame of film to the next. Something that the human eye is not going to pick up on the fly. In the moment, that was a goal. After video replay that was a goal. After slo-mo replay that was a goal. For most us.

Are you an NFL replay official? I know it's a long offseason, but let's just agree to disagree. Does it count that he made a football move?