BULGARIA VERSUS JAPAN was the title of a Sunday Prophet article written by Ginevra Potter and published on 6 July, 2014. The article covered the match between the Bulgarian and the Japanese National Quidditch teams, part of the 2014 Quidditch World Cup.
One minute before walking out onto the pitch for the second of this year's semi-finals, Bulgarian Beater Boris Vulchanov told me: 'We've been underdogs all through this tournament. We have nothing to lose and everything to win. We'll leave everything out there.'
And nobody could deny that they did. If there is any consolation for the Japanese, who have been outstanding throughout this tournament and who have given the wizarding world two new icon in Beaters Shingo and Hongo, it is that they will long live in memory; one of the highest scoring of recent years and a display of utterly thrilling Quidditch.
As expected, Shingo and Hongo dominated the early part of the game. Play was stopped twice for Healers to attend to the Bulgarian team, six of whom were bleeding from the head within an hour of Quaffle-off.
Then cam a triple display of sportsmanship that nobody who witnessed it will soon forget. With Bludgers still flying like cannonballs, Vulchanov deliberately interposed his body to protect teammate and Seeker Krum, who was in hot pursuit of the Snitch. Vulchanov was knocked out cold and fell from his broom, only to be caught and saved by Japanese Seeker Noriko Sato. Seeing that Sato was unable to pursue the Snitch, Krum pulled up and did not not capitalise on his momentary advantage. Krum, Sato and Vulchanov (once revived) were given a standing ovation by all spectators as play resumed.
While the Japanese defence has rightly drawn plaudits from all corners of the Quidditch world, the work of Chasers Ryuichi Yamaguchi, Kimiko Kurosawa and Yoshi Wakahisa should not be overlooked. By the eighth hour of the game the Japanese were two hundred and fifty points ahead. In spite of trailing badly, the Bulgarians took everything Shingo and Hongo were throwing at them. The Bulgarians' play was not pretty, but their guts could not be doubted.
The Snitch appeared for the second time and Krum raced Sato, driving her off but refusing to catch it. It was a mark of faith in his team and a sharp contrast to the infamous catch of the '94 final, where he had brought the game to an end to spare his side further humiliation at the hands of the Irish.
This was the true turning point of the match. The Bulgarians now chipped slowly away, finally drawing level by sheer persistence and a much-improved defensive performance. Then, in the tenth hour, the extraordinary reversal: Krum performed a magnificent piece of diversionary flying that led Sato to believe he was avoiding Hongo's sight-line, and before the crows or his fellow players realised what has happening, Krum caught the Snitch. Such was the crowd's astonishment that there was a ten second silence before the Bulgarian supporters even dared cheer. Their celebrations continue as I write, but only the most hard-hearted could fail to sympathise with the Japanese, who now face the USA in the playoff for third place.
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