The short version of this post would be, “Wow.” Thanks to the climactic end to ETU’s biggest game that spanned seven episodes, this series sure delivered one adrenaline-pumping finish to the series. The excitement was off the scale and reminded me exactly why I picked up this show in the first place. It gave me goosebumps! The biggest surprise is that Natsuki wasn’t able to make good on the chances Gino gave him, but Sugie sure did when ETU was awarded a free kick from Hiraga hauling down Tsubaki. I still can’t believe Hiraga didn’t even get a yellow card for such a blatant play, but the fake-out from Akasaki and Gino on their set play sure made up for it. I absolutely loved the overdramatic way the tying goal played out on Osaka’s side too, because everyone was freaking out when it wasn’t Akasaki taking the free kick. “It’s Gino!” It was even better when Hiraga realized just moments before Gino sent the ball over to Sugie too, since it served as an extra kick in the face to the highly touted Gunners. What happened to all those national team representatives on the defense Osaka!? *does a victory dance*
Coming into this episode, I was really hoping that Tsubaki would score — I really did. In fact, I even had the same look of disbelief on my face when he rung it off the crossbar after receiving a pass from Murakoshi. However, after all that build up that Sera got about his struggles as a forward and never being able to score a goal despite his desperate struggle to do so, it felt only befitting that he’d score the winning goal here and pull off the biggest upset of the season. It may not have been the prettiest goal, diving head first at a rebound and sacrificing his body in the face of Terauchi’s clearing attempt, but it reiterated the fact that Sera’s a player who wasn’t blessed with the talent or the physique to be a superstar yet can still contribute within his limitations by working hard. In a way, it was almost an underdog story within an underdog story, so it was nice to see both him and the team rewarded in the best way possible — giving the undefeated Osaka Gunners their first loss of the season. While this may only be sports anime, the uproar from the crowd and just ecstatic celebration from the team was just awesome to take in. It’s a bit of a shame that Sakai didn’t have a role in this game outside of encouraging Sera when he was injured though. In lieu, reserve forward Miyano and midfielder Hotta sure filled in nicely for Akasaki and Sugie after their tying goal.
Ultimately, the most credit goes to Tatsumi and his strategy revolving around Dulfer’s hesitation to switch out Hiraga. By the time Dulfer finally caved that he had to take his captain and Hauer out, it had already become a huge mind game that him and his players had already lost to. There may not have been any sparks in the closing handshake between the two, but it wasn’t hard to sense the frustration in Dulfer’s eyes. The final group shot of ETU on the other hand was simply bad ass and had me really hoping that their eventual rematch will be animated some day. The next and final episode looks like it’s going to be a purely epilogue-type one, with the exception being Akasaki’s invitation to the Olympic team. Somehow, a lighthearted ending with a curry party feels like a good note to conclude things on.