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July 10, 2011
U.S. Women make epic comeback against Brazil, referee

Abby Wambach’s heartstopping extra time goal lifted the U.S.A. into the Women’s World Cup semifinals.
Abby Wambach’s heartstopping extra time goal lifted the U.S.A. into the Women’s World Cup semifinals.
Linda Cuttone/Sports Vue Images
DRESDEN, Germany---In the storied history of the United States Women’s National Team, there have been some incredible finishes. But perhaps none as incredible as Sunday’s penalty kick Women’s World Cup quarterfinal win over Brazil at Rudolf-Harbig Stadium.

After the United States played 65 minutes ten players on the field, Abby Wambach scored in the 122nd minute to even the score at 2-2. Then the U.S. was perfect on penalty kicks, goalkeeper Hope Solo made a critical third-round stop on Brazil’s Daiane, and defender Ali Krieger put away the finishing blow in the fifth round of the tiebreaker.

The U.S. Women will play France in Wednesday’s semifinal match in Moenchengladbach.

The story almost didn’t have that happy an ending for the U.S., thanks to some seriously questionable calls by Australian referee Jacqui Melksham.

With the U.S. leading thanks to Daiane’s own goal just 76 seconds into the game, defender Rachel Buehler was given a red card in the 65th minute for what the official thought was a foul in the penalty area against Marta. Cristiane took the penalty kick and Solo made the save, but the official ordered the kick re-taken, evidently because a U.S. player stepped into the penalty area, and Solo was carded for dissent. Marta converted the mulligan in the 68th minute, and drew boos from the crowd every time she touched the ball for the remainder of the game.

That left the United States chasing the game. The situation became dire two minutes into extra time, when Marta scored her second goal of the game. Maurine, who appeared to be offside when she received the ball, sent a chip from near the left endline to Marta, who was inside the penalty area. The Brazilian toe-poked the ball while it was in midair, sending it inside the back post.

That left the U.S. a player and a goal down. The Americans’ fitness came into play as they tried to swarm the Brazil goal. The payoff finally came at the last possible moment, two minutes into stoppage of the second overtime. Megan Rapinoe, who came into the game for Lauren Cheney in the 55th minute, sent a long diagonal service from the left side to the far post. Wambach went up with Brazil goalkeeper Andrea and placed a perfect header into the net, scoring the latest goal in Women’s World Cup history.

The U.S. was then perfect in the penalty kicks, with Shannon Boxx, Carli Lloyd, Wambach, Rapinoe and Krieger hitting the net.

The miraculous win came on the 12th anniversary of the United States beating China in the 1999 World Cup final on Brandi Chastain’s epic penalty kick. Wambach’s goal clearly has to rank up there in the annals of U.S. Women’s Soccer.

The U.S. had plenty of chances in the 120 minutes, but few that challenged Andrea. In the 12th minute, Wambach sent a header sailing wide. A minute later, Cheney’s corner kick was headed on goal by Boxx, but Andrea punched it away. In the 63rd minute, a long free kick by Christie Rampone was headed off the bar by Lloyd.

In the first overtime, Andrea made a diving one handed save on a left-footed shot by Wamabch.

Solo came up big for the U.S. on several occasions. After Amy Rodriguez made a poor clearance in the 38th minute, she tipped Fabiana’s opportunistic shot off the bar. The American goalkeeper, who was famously thrown off the team because of comments she made following a loss to Brazil in the last World Cup, came up a with a pair of saves at the hour mark, first stopping a 20 yard shot by Cristiane, then covering up a shot from Fabiana.

In the closing moments, when Brazil was threatening to put the game away, Solo grabbed a chip shot by Francielle to keep the U.S. in the game.

Remarkably, it might have been a case of gamesmanship by the Brazilians that ultimately cost them the game. In the 113th minute, Erika went down, untouched in her own penalty area. After eating up more than three minutes of time, she was stretchered off and immediately popped up off the stretcher ready to re-enter the game. She was immediately shown a yellow by Melksham, and the resulting added time led to Wambach’s goal.

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