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The Strangest Soccer Match Ever Played

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In 1994, twenty-one Caribbean nations gathered on the soccer pitch to play for the Shell Caribbean Cup. Trinidad and Tobago would emerge victorious, beating—among many—Barbados along the way. But the two countries would have never matched up but for, perhaps, the strangest soccer match ever played.

Barbados, Grenada, and Puerto Rico were grouped together in the qualifying round. In the first two games, Grenada beat Puerto Rico, 2-0, while Barbados lost to Puerto Rico, 1-0. With Grenada and Barbados set to play, the potential outcomes were clear. Grenada would advance with a win. With goal differential being the tiebreaker, however, Barbados needed to do more than just win outright; they needed to win by at least two goals, otherwise Grenada would advance. There were no ties in the qualifying round — instead, tie games went into sudden death overtime.

For some reason, the tournament organizers decided that overtime goals would be worth two points. So when Barbados found themselves winning, 2-1, with less than ten minutes left, they had two choices: try and score a third goal, unlikely versus a lock-down Grenada defense, or intentionally score an own goal, tying the game at 2-2, and hoping for the best in overtime. They went with the second strategy, as shown in this video:

With the game tied, 2-2, what was strange became stranger. Grenada realized that a 3-2 win or a 3-2 loss would be equally effective, so they tried to score in either goal — Barbados’ or their own. For five frantic minutes, Barbados defended both goals against the two-fronted Grenada assault. Grenada failed, and Barbados netted the game-winner in overtime, winning 4-2 and advancing past the qualifying round.

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