The United States Women’s National Team defeated Brazil in the Quarterfinals 5-3 on penalty kicks. The match was one of the most thrilling and enjoyable games I’ve ever watched. The game had it all: controversy, a red card, a late goal and a penalty shootout.
The United States went up early in the second minute due to an own goal by Brazil defender Daiane. The United States looked in control after the fortuitous lead and Hope Solo wasn’t troubled much in the first half.
However, the game turned on it’s head in the 65th minute when Rachel Buehler fouled Marta on her way through on goal after flicking the ball over Buehler’s head. Buehler preventing Marta’s attempt on goal was shown a straight red card. The red card in itself was contentious, as Buehler wasn’t the last defender. However, denying Marta a goal-scoring opportunity was enough for the red card to be shown by referee Jacqui Melsham. The red card wasn’t the true moment of contention though.
Brazil forward Christiane stepped up to take the kick and US keeper Solo parried the shot to safety. However, the referees deemed Solo to move too quickly, even though the save looked fair on replay, and Brazil got a second crack at an equalizer. Marta stepped up to re-do the spot kick and sent Solo the wrong way to even up the score. This seemingly wrong call, also swung the crowd in the United States favor, as audible boos could be heard ringing down when Marta touched the ball.
The disallowed penalty save wasn’t the only bone of contention for the US. On the goal that gave Brazil the lead in the 92nd minute, the cross that came to Marta, was from a player in an offside position. The referee didn’t flag for the infraction and Marta took the chance brilliantly as she sent the ball towards the far post, which deflected off the inside of the post and bounced into the back of Hope Solo’s net.
The US, even a player down never showed signs of quitting. Down a goal and a player the United States played better than they were with all eleven players on the field. The equalizing goal finally came in the second minute of stoppage time of the second extra time period, in a goal as announcer Ian Darke rightly pointed out, reminiscent in magnitude of Landon Donavan’s goal against Algeria. Megan Rapinoe whipped the ball to the back post and Brazil keeper Andriea missed as she tried to claim it, leaving the goal open for Abby Wambach to head home.
Wambach’s goal sent the game into one of the most pressure-filled situations, the penalty shootout. Shannon Boxx stepped up first for the US and on a play similar to the second half, Andriea came off her line to early to make the save and Boxx got a second chance, which she finished. Solo made a big save a few shots later blocking Daiane’s, who scored the own goal, attempt from the spot.
Ali Krieger stepped up for the United States as the fifth taker and buried it bottom left to send the United States into the Semi-final.
The match that was on display between both teams was a hectic, high drama match that will live long in the memories of soccer fans. The United States is now still alive with a chance to win their first World Cup since ’99. For the under-funded Brazil team, they will have to wait another four years before they can again, try to hoist the World Cup trophy for the first time.
After a game of this excitement I cannot wait for the Semi-final match. Also one must wonder if FIFA will ever decide to use replay technology after several mistakes by the referees. Fortunately, the United States ultimately won the game and the poor calls won’t overshadow a highly dramatic and highly competitive game by both sides.
This match also highlighted the skill and quality of the Women’s game. So for those who haven’t been tuning into the Women’s World Cup, this match is certainly a reason to start and get behind the US team in their quest for World Cup glory.