The setting: Camp Nou.
An under-staffed, under-manned, underdog Chelsea team are relentlessly defending a 2-2 aggregate scoreline; an away goal advantage. Barcelona is at home, on the ground where they do not lose, certainly not under Pep Guardiola. Despite our first leg 1-0 victory, it was entirely expected that Barcelona would not only make up the deficit, but overturn it. And not only overturn it, but smoothly and relentlessly remove all doubt that they were still the best team in the world, and head into Munich with that reputation intact.
For Chelsea, not only was there a lead to protect, but a desire to win. Fueled not only by the desire that every footballer should have, but also by the cruelest of times: The 6th of May, 2009 at Stamford Bridge, when not one, but FOUR clear penalty decisions would be waved off, and Barcelona, in the cruelest fashion, would knock Chelsea out of the Champions League, on their own west London grass, in what looked like Chelsea’s strongest season ever. It was heartbreaking, but first and foremost, it was infuriating. We deserved to go through. We likely deserved to win it all. In the words of a hopeless Liverpool fan, it was “our year.” And it was stripped away from us. Tom Henning Øvrebø himself would later admit that he got it horribly wrong.
We would never forget that time. And when we had the chance to go at Barcelona again in the semifinals of 2012, with the chance to oust them on their own home ground, that would fuel us.
It was a story of sheer human effort. The maximum determination and physical commitment that one could give, 10 men gave in tandem. They did everything, gave everything, sacrificed everything. They would not let Barcelona have their way. And at the end, we watched Fernando Torres dart off with the ball. All alone.
Surely, he would. Wouldn’t he? He couldn’t miss. Could he?
And then the ball rolled into the net. It was the stuff that dreams, at least for those wearing Blue, are made of.
We finally had our revenge. And we would go on to experience the greatest night in the history of Chelsea Football Club.
If you’ve got 6-1/2 minutes to spare, this YouTube video, though the title is misleading, is actually a brilliantly done montage of that magical night, and well worth your watch, and the tears that may follow:
I recall this night not because it’s a great memory, but because I have a parallel to draw. Futhermore, I believe WE have a parallel to draw.
The setting is now Natal. The colors of red and white now join the blue. And we have a particular adversary of whom we owe some degree of revenge.
Like in London, we incredibly struck first. Like in Catalonia, we were protecting an advantage. And just as well, we would lose that advantage. And the world was expecting Ghana to overturn that advantage, prove that they are the better team, break American hearts once again, just as Barcelona intended to do to Chelsea.
But on this night, something else was in the air.
Despite every blistering Ghanian attack, despite every display of physical superiority, something would just go wrong for Ghana. There would be some slight hitch, like Atsu’s touch near the end of the first half just failing him enough near the end of the first half, or Gyan’s control immediately after just going wrong enough. A header would go the wrong way, an effort on goal would be weak. Immediately after we would foolishly give up possession, Ghana would get too excited and give it right back. Frustrated, they would blaze a shot wide or over the goal.
This sure felt a lot like Barcelona. We had no idea who the hero would be. Or if there would be one at all.
And then, seemingly out of nowhere, the German-American newcomer John Brooks, the man eligible to play for us thanks to his father being a serviceman (SUPPORT YOUR TROOPS!), on just his 5th international appearance, would thunder in a header off the ground and into the back of the net.
He couldn’t believe it. Klinsmann couldn’t believe it. Ghana couldn’t believe it. The commentators couldn’t believe it. The fans couldn’t believe it.
But it happened. We had our goal. We had our lead. We had showed our resolve. We kept our resolve.
Like the Men in Blue in the Camp Nou, we had refused to give up. We fought to the end. And just like that, that pressure that we felt in the Camp Nou, that sense of impending doom, that heart waiting to break, that 200 pounds of weight threatening to force our stomachs out and into the dirt, those memories of 2006 and 2010, that crushing grip on the back of our necks — LIFTED.
Full time. 2-1. We finally had our revenge.
And it was every bit as magical.
Be sure to follow me on Twitter @sverige1089. I’m constantly talking Chelsea, the USMNT, and soccer in general on there! Send any questions or comments along to that account, or to my email address: [email protected] Cheers!