As she walked off the field US forward Abby Wambach was heard saying “I can’t believe that just happened.” Neither can anyone else who was watching.
Today’s quarterfinal Women’s World Cup pitted the top ranked US team against the third ranked Brazilians, in Dresden, Germany. The host and favorites, Germany, fell to Japan in a shock upset Saturday night.
The US had the game against Brazil in hand on a 1-0 lead until the 65th minute, when it seemed that the official switched jerseys to wear the Brazilians’ gold. In that 65th minute, a Brazilian forward charged into the US penalty box but was cut off from the shot by US back Rachel Buehler. The official ruled Buehler’s clean tackle a foul, issued her a red card ejecting her from the game, and awarded Brazil a penalty kick. Brazil forward *Marta da Silva, five-time running top player in the world, took the pk — and US goalie Hope Solo stopped her cold. But the official misjudged that Solo had jumped off her line early and ruled a pk re-do for Brazil. Replays showed that the foul and the pk judgement were both dead wrong — the official had gotten every part of the sequence wrong, turning the entire game on its head in the process. Marta blasts the second chance past Solo, knotting the score at 1-1. But the US now faced 25 minutes in regulation time with 10 players against Brazil’s11 (or 12, depending on how you view the referee). And Brazil’s blazing speed all over the field threatened to overrun the shorthanded Americans.
The US survived to the end of normal time, forcing two 15-minute halves of extra time. Brazil capitalized early, with Marta flicking in a shot from the left side of the goal a couple of minutes into extra time, giving Brazil its first lead, 2-1. But the pass that set up Marta’s brilliant goal came from an offside player; it should not have been allowed to stand. Yet another bad call that directly impacted the game.
Down 2-1, down a man, the US faced elimination. Through the first half of extra time and deep into the second, the US could not muster a goal. Then more controversy, as Brazil defender Erika took an obvious dive to waste time with in the 117th minute. She stayed down, called for a stretcher, had herself carted off the field, only to jump off the stretcher and run back onto the field. Her antics were so obvious that they earned her a yellow card. The US continued to struggle until the 122nd minute (three minutes of stoppage time having been awarded thanks in part to Erika’s dive), when Megan Rapinhoe passed into the box from the deep left, finding forward Abby Wambach in the box just to the right of Brazil’s goal. Wambach heads the ball into the net, tying up the score at 2-2. Wambach’s was the latest goal in Women’s World Cup history, and sent the game into a penalty kick shootout.
In the shootout, US goalkeeper Hope Solo gave the US a lead by stopping Brazilian Daiane’s shot. Daiane factored in both ends of Brazil’s defeat, having put the ball in her own net off a US cross just 74 seconds into the game. The US made all five of their pk’s to take the win, 5-3, in the shootout and advancing to the semi-finals against France — who also advanced thanks to a pk shootout against England on Saturday.
The US vs Brazil exhibited both what’s best and worst in international soccer. The officiating was atrocious to the point that the entire crew should be investigated and possibly banned from the rest of this tournament. I have watched a lot of soccer; this was the worst officiating I’ve ever seen. The poor officiating equalized the game, put the US down a player, and the missed offsides left the US down a goal very late in the day. Only gutty play by the Americans, and in particular Wambach who had struggled to score for most of this tournament, saved the day. The never say die attitude of the Americans showed what’s best in sport. Battling what at times looked like a 12-10 advantage on the field for Brazil, the Americans fought back from the dead and won.
Like Wambach said at the end, it was unbelievable.
*Cristiane actually took the first pk. Marta took the do-over that scored.