BELO HORIZONTE, Brazil – The World Cup's unluckiest player held his face in his hands, unable to believe the fate that he had just been dealt.
For Gonzalo Jara will go down in World Cup folklore as having completed the kind of rare double no soccer player would ever want: conceding an own goal and missing the vital kick in a penalty shootout as Chile was bounced out of the tournament in heart-stopping fashion.
"It was so unfortunate," said Chile coach Jorge Sampaoli. "Listen, penalties [kicks] are something that you always train but when you are on the field, the situation is completely different."
Jara was on target at the wrong end 18 minutes into the game, deflecting a Thiago Silva flick from a Neymar corner into his own net under pressure from David Luiz. Luiz was officially credited with the goal, but television replays showed it was Jara's deflection and his pain to live with, even though his defense was solid and the goal not entirely his fault.
It would not have mattered but for a few inches – on two separate occasions. After Alexis Sanchez equalized for Chile, Mauricio Pinilla's strike late in extra time connected with the crossbar. Fractionally lower and Chile would be through.
Had Pinilla's shot snuck in, Jara would never have had to step up as his country's fifth penalty taker. In a shootout that went back and forward and oozed with drama, Jara strode to the spot needing to convert to extend the game. He clipped his effort past the dive of Brazilian goalkeeper Julio Cesar, but could only look on in horror as it struck again the post and bounced away.
Chileans are too wounded right now to cast blame on their own and Jara, aside from those two moments, was outstanding in helping repel the Brazilian attacking onslaught.
Chile has been one of the shining lights of the tournament, and the World Cup will miss their brand of energy, enthusiasm and expert skill. The draw was not kind; Chile got out of a Group of Death along with the Netherlands (at the expense of Spain) only to run smack into the host nation.
[Gallery: Round of 16 matchup: Best of Brazil vs. Chile ]
"I am very proud of my players," Sampaoli said. "I think the players have written history because they have represented the country in a beautiful and amazing way."
Jara is a free agent after he was one of several players released by his English club Nottingham Forest at the end of last season. He is 28 and not a hot commodity, solid rather than spectacular. He will find a club elsewhere and go about his business for club and country, but he will never forget this day, and probably never be allowed to.
Chile has suffered far too much pain at the hands of Brazil in soccer. It was Brazil that knocked Chile out in 1962 in the semifinals, when Chile hosted the tournament, and now three times since.
The pain continues for an unlucky team – and the tournament's unluckiest player.
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