June 29, 2021
After a mistake that could sink a team and a man, the goalkeeper showed the mental strength to recover just as Spain did in extra time to reach the last eight
Unai Simón’s redemption mirrors Spain’s – and now anything is possible | Sid Lowe
When the half-time whistle went most of Spain’s players headed towards the tunnel in the northern corner of Parken but David de Gea went in the other direction. Instead of turning right, the Manchester United goalkeeper made his way across the pitch to meet Unai Simón and accompany him on the long walk to the dressing room. Spain had equalised against Croatia, a lifeline for all of them, but Simón had made the kind of mistake that could have put them out and one that might never go away, feeding a million memes and a generation of jokes; the type of error that he and De Gea knew can sink a team and sink a man too.
A moment was all it took for Pedri’s back pass to slip past Simón’s foot and into the net, at 44 metres the longest own goal scored at a major tournament. It was so quick, so unexpected, so frankly silly that some of Spain’s players hadn’t even seen it, their eyes, like the goalkeeper’s, already on the next move. But they had heard it and felt it, too. Now they were determined that it would be only a moment, not their fate. As Simón and De Gea ducked into the tunnel to the dressing room, teammates and staff were waiting for them.
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