Sunday, July 10, 2011
2011 FIFA Women's World Cup Team USA Watch- Wow...Just Wow
But wow. This was a game for the ages. It's too bad today's match between the USA and Brazil was a quarterfinal one and not a semifinal or the final.
This one had so much drama, intrigue, twists and turns packed in it that I don't think even a Hollywood scriptwriter could have come up with a better plot..
Team USA has never finished lower than third place in FIFA Women's World Cup play but was coming off their first loss ever in group play to Sweden while Brazil went unbeaten in theirs. They've also never lost a game while wearing their black uniforms and wanted to get off to a fast start in this quarterfinal match in Dresden.
An own goal from Brazil's Daiane a mere two minutes into the match got the fast start party started and allowed Team USA to take a 1-0 lead into the half.
But Brazil has a player no one else on the planet has in Marta, the five time reigning FIFA Women's Player of the Year. She showed why she's earned that award for five straight years in the second half.
In the 68th minute Marta splits a double team by flicking the ball to herself over both defenders heads and broke toward the US goal. She was challenged by Rachel Buehler but as both player fell in the penalty area was ruled to have been pulled down from behind.
That unfortunately earned Buehler a red card, a seat in the locker room for the rest of the match and Brazil a penalty shot to attempt to tie the game.
Christiane takes the initial penalty kick that Hope Solo correctly guesses the direction of and stops cold.. Referee Jacqui Melksham rules Solo left her line too soon and orders another one. The Dresden stadium crown and the USA squad is incensed, Hope Solo draws a yellow card for her vociferous protest otherwise and this time the Brazilians entrust Marta with the penalty shot she successfully makes to tie the score.
In addition to the score now being 1-1, Team USA must now play with 10 women the rest of the way. It's hard enough playing Brazil with 11 players, but playing them shorthanded for many squads is FIFA Football Mission Impossible.
But Team USA isn't just any squad. They're the FIFA world number one ranked team and back to back 2004 and 2008 Olympic champs and showed why they occupy the top spot of the women's FIFA rankings if anyone had any doubts about that.
They buckled down defensively and somehow managed to keep the powerful FIFA number three ranked Brazilians off the board for the next 22 minutes and force 30 minutes of overtime while nearly getting a golden goal in regulation time themselves.
But early in the first overtime period thanks to another blown call (the refs miss a Brazilian player being offside) and get another highlight reel goal from Marta in the 92nd minute that she deftly flicks off the right post and into the back of the net to put them ahead 2-1. Despite determined attacks at the Brazilian goal Team USA looks all but dead and headed back home until the header from Abby Wambach in the 122nd minute during the second 15 minute overtime period ties the score and forces a penalty kick shootout.
We got a little karmic payback when the first PK attempt by Shannon Boxx was blocked by Andreia but she was ruled to have left her line early. Boxx buried the rekick to get us started to a 5-3 penalty kick shootout win that was clinched when Solo blocked Daiane's PK attempt and Wambach and Krieger buried theirs to send the USA to the semifinals and avenge the 2007 semifinal loss to Brazil as well..
Oh yeah, did I mention that all of this happens on the 12th anniversary of the 1999 Women's World Cup final in the Rose Bowl that the USA women won on penalty kicks against China?
Breathe people. Time to get ready for Wednesday's semifinal against France in Monchengladbach. Winner gets a trip to Frankfurt to play in the title match versus the Japan-Sweden winner on Sunday. Losers plays in the third place game in Sinsheim on Saturday.
This 2011 team has said repeatedly they wanted to forge their own legacy separate from the 1999 World championship squad. They may have taken a giant step toward doing that today.