You know those games where things keep happening, one after another, and you keep thinking they have to slow down soon, and they don’t?
That’s the kind of game Scotland and Argentina played at the Parc des Princes Wednesday night. In what was the wildest ride of the World Cup thus far, Argentina came back from 3-0 to tie and preserve a thread of hope that they might remain in the tournament. For both teams, the game involved every possible emotion, from elation to devastation to—naturally, in the murky new world of VAR—outright confusion.
With both teams desperately needing a win to advance out of the group, both played differently from how they’ve lined up in previous games. Kim Little played in her natural attacking midfield position for the first time in the tournament—she was forced to play a more defensive role against two stronger sides in England and Japan—and Argentina played a much more offensive game than in their first two matches, pressuring Scotland all over the field rather than using the bunker that got them a draw against Japan and held England to one goal.
“We left everything on the field,” said Argentina goalkeeper Vanina Correa after the game. “We didn’t hold anything back, and it ended 3-3.”
Argentina threatened to score a few times early in the game, but couldn’t quite finish any of their chances, and when Kim Little notched a goal in the 19th minute, the momentum swung Scotland’s way. “I think if we had scored the first goal, everything would have changed,” said Sole Jaimes. “But unfortunately, they scored first, so that complicated things.”
The South American side continued to find opportunities, many of them going through Florencia Bonsegundo on the left, with Estefania Banini drifting out to the wing to combine with her. Going into halftime, Scotland had the advantage on the scoresheet but had also suffered from some sloppy passing, and the game still looked wide open.
When, four minutes into the second half, Jenny Beattie got away from her mark and headed home Scotland’s second goal, things looked bleak for the Albiceleste. Argentina started to look increasingly tired and frustrated. Estefania Banini, their captain and best player, subbed out in the 60th minute to make way for a second striker, Milagros Menendez. Nine minutes later, Scotland notched their third, this one from 20-year-old Erin Cuthbert.
And then—living up to the name “Milagros”—Menendez got one back for Argentina.
When Florencia Bonsegundo struck from outside the 18 in the 79th minute, bouncing her shot off the bottom of the crossbar, Lee Alexander couldn’t hang onto the ball as she dove backwards, and suddenly Scotland felt what had looked like a sure win slipping out of their grasp.
That’s when things got wild.
In the 86th minute, Sophie Howard took Aldana Cometti down in the box, conceding—after a lengthy video review—a penalty. Alexander saved Bonsegundo’s attempt, before, in a replay of the Wendie Renard penalty in France’s game against Nigeria and Cristiana Girelli’s against Jamaica, VAR struck again, ruling that Alexander had been fractionally off her line as Bonsegundo took the kick.
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Posted by The Equalizer on Wednesday, June 19, 2019
The Argentine didn’t miss her second attempt—but whatever hope for a win her team had in that moment, it soon slipped away, as center referee Hyang-Ok Ri blew the whistle almost immediately after four minutes of added time had been announced in the stadium.
It was a result that left neither team happy and both sides confused. “Both teams had to go for it tonight, had to win the match, and there’s not many teams in football that would have come back the way Argentina did, so credit to them as opponents,” said Scottish midfielder Leanne Crichton. “And I’m sure they’re disappointed with the time that’s not been added on to the end of the match as well, because they probably felt they were able to go on and get the three points, and that would have changed their tournament as well.”
“The four minutes of extra time got cut short, and we didn’t know what happened,” said Correa. “When the game ended, we were all wondering what had happened.”
The draw, which knocked Scotland out of the tournament, was devastating to the World Cup debutantes. “I’m absolutely gutted for the team,” said Erin Cuthbert in the post-game press conference. “We put so much into the game, and we gave it everything. We can hold our heads high, because we’ve done ourselves proud.”
For Argentina, the emotions were more complicated. They can still advance to the Round of 16, if both Chile-Thailand and Cameroon-New Zealand end in draws on Thursday. “It’s kind of a weird feeling, because we came back from behind,” said Banini, “but it also feels bad, because it’s out of our hands now. It depends on the other results.”
But the bigger picture, for Argentina, is their best-ever World Cup performance. The team was inactive for so long that they dropped out of the FIFA rankings altogether, and the tournament comes on the heels of a public fight with their federation. Whether they advance or not, two points and three goals in the group stage is an enormous achievement for what is essentially an amateur team.
“I’m more than proud of the team, for these girls,” said Banini, “because we’re the team with the least training, the least history. So I’m proud. I think that there’s a trust among the girls, an attitude that’s really different from the other teams…we’d like to play more games.”
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