Brian Phillips at The New Yorker:
Soccer makes very little sense at the best of times, and on Monday, in the dying moments of Iran’s World Cup match against Portugal, it made no sense at all. The game had been combative. It was the third and final match day in Group B, and both teams had a chance to advance to the knockout stage; both teams also knew that a bad result could send them home. Elbows flew on every contested header. Bodies strained in ways that made you think of the word “sinew,” possibly for the first time all year. Cristiano Ronaldo, the Portuguese star, winced so hard after bashing a free kick into the Iranian wall that his neck briefly looked like the Rock’s neck.
Both teams had chances to score. Ronaldo even took a penalty, in the fifty-third minute, but it was saved by the Iranian goalkeeper, Alireza Beiranvand. Both had spent shrill minutes shrieking at and pleading with the referee, who had, from the perspective of the players, committed several of the most unfathomable injustices ever perpetrated by a human being.