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'World Cup' in Space: Cosmonaut Goalie Blocks Soccer Ball … With His Face

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Before the French and Croatian soccer teams came face-to-face at the 2018 World Cup final in Moscow yesterday (July 15), a cosmonaut came face-to-face with a soccer ball during a more low-key sporting event at the International Space Station (ISS).

Russian cosmonaut Oleg Artemyev posted a video of a "zero-g" soccer game at the ISS on Twitter early Sunday morning. In the clip, Artemyev guards a goal marked with a Roscosmos flag and gets smacked in the face with a soccer ball following an impressive double-team effort by European Space Agency astronaut Alexander Gerst and Russian cosmonaut Sergey Prokopyev.

Gerst, who donned a German soccer jersey with his own name on it, set up the shot with a graceful somersault that sent the ball drifting slowly toward Prokopyev, who then forcefully headbutted the ball straight into Artemyev's face. The goalie may have lost his footing after the blow, but he succeeded in blocking the goal­. [Watch Cosmonauts Play Soccer in Space to Celebrate 2018 World Cup]

This was not the first time that these crewmembers of Expedition 56 have played soccer in space. They posted another video before the World Cup first kicked off in June. In that video (shown above), you can see Artemyev practice fancy kicks while flipping and floating around the ISS – moves that are arguably more impressive than his awkward face block.

Artemyev launched to the ISS in March along with NASA astronauts Drew Feustel and Ricky Arnold, and the trio will return to Earth in October. His fellow space-soccer players, Gerst and Prokopyev, arrived in June along with NASA astronaut Serena M. Auñón-Chancellor, and they will stay aboard the ISS for the remainder of 2018.

Email Hanneke Weitering at hweitering@space.com or follow her @hannekescience. Follow us @Spacedotcom, Facebook and Google+. Original article on Space.com.

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Hanneke Weitering is an editor at Space.com with 10 years of experience in science journalism. She has previously written for Scholastic Classroom Magazines, MedPage Today and The Joint Institute for Computational Sciences at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. After studying physics at the University of Tennessee in her hometown of Knoxville, she earned her graduate degree in Science, Health and Environmental Reporting (SHERP) from New York University. Hanneke joined the Space.com team in 2016 as a staff writer and producer, covering topics including spaceflight and astronomy. She currently lives in Seattle, home of the Space Needle, with her cat and two snakes. In her spare time Hanneke anjoys exploring the Rocky Mountains, basking in nature and looking for dark skies to gaze at the cosmos.