When the impossible becomes the inevitable



A football match between Barcelona and Paris Saint Germain has become hailed as one of the great fight-backs in sporting history. I examine it as a magical experience in which the impossible was transmuted into the inevitable

The match was a knockout played over two legs, in the prestigious European Champion’s Competition. Barcelona went to Paris for the first leg two weeks ago, as favourites to win, and one of the favourites to win the entire tournament. The first leg was sensational, as PSG produced an exceptional performance, sweeping aside a sluggish Barcelona 4-0. As football fans know, away goals in this competition have extra value. Any draw of 4-4 or fewer goals will mean PSG wins the tie. Pundits write off Barcelona’s chances after the first leg. Statistics show a very low chance of Barca scoring five without a PSG response, or six if PSG were to score a single goal.

The Impossible dream?

The match is reported on news feeds, and on the BT Sport channel in the UK.

Stevie Gerard on BT Sport at the start of the return leg see he was hoping for a miracle and for Barca to win. [I wonder how that slipped through at rehearsal.]

Barcelona began with their world-class attackers in better form. A goal after three minutes brought that faint hope if pressure could be converted into quick goals. Then a reprieve for the Spanish team, as PSG are denied what was consider by the pundits as a clear penalty.  Then after 20 minutes, an own goal makes in 2-0 on the night, and faint hope is fanned into stronger life.

Another penalty shortly after half time and Messi makes it 3-0. Now faint hope is turning into belief. Barcelona are creating chances and seem more likely to score.

A setback

A foul and a high ball converted by PSG’s main striker Cavani. 3-1 but now the dream is fading, as the requirement is up to three more goals from Barcelona, and time is running up.

Three minutes to full time

A brilliant goal from a free kick for Barcelona, but only three minutes left before full-time. 4-1, which is 4-5 on aggregate. At 5-5, PSG would still win through the away goal. The away goal is working for them. The atmosphere has been cranking up, and hope has been replaced by belief.  PSG remain under pressure, as if awaiting the inevitable.

Only a few minutes of added time remains, when the slightest of contact produces a spectacular tumble by Luis Suaraz, a great player and useful gymnast in the fall-down category. 5-5

So near and yet so far?

Five minutes of extra time. Ridiculous tension. Thrills all in the PSG half, but the five minutes creep on.  Will the impossible dream remain impossible?

Of course not

In the last moments, yet another free kick. As if by some spell, the defenders cannot move to prevent an attacker re-materializing and striking the ball home. They are spellbound. Barcelona ahead, and the final whistle goes, hardy heard above the thunderous wave of noise engulfing the stadium


Yes, I see it just so. What happened may have had a reality in a mundane world. I hold on to a wondrous story described in magical terms by observer, going viral at the time.

The rapid reaction around the sporting world suggests the game is acquiring mythic status. It is a magical story  that will be remembered and re-invented in the retelling. It is the old fireside tale of how the impossible turns into the inevitable.

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