If you missed the USA-Brazil World Cup quarterfinal soccer match in Dresden Germany today, go find someone who DVR’d it and watch an instant, transcendant classic that had everything — heroes, villains, plot twists and reversals, and a final transcendent moment where patience and incredible effort were rewarded with a magical goal (the latest ever recorded in World Cup history) that revived the U.S. from a “flatliner” near death moment for a US team who had played its heart out, and was about to see that heart stop beating — only to revive to tie, then beat Brazil after it seemed all hope was lost.
If you didn’t see it, here’s what you missed.
This was a quarterfinal match that had the feel of a final – indeed, both the USA and Brazil are considered among the favorites to win the World Cup, and their clash would have been delayed to the finals had it not been for Sweden’s surprise 2-1 victory of the US team in Wednesday’s group stage final–which upset the seedings and brought about the USA-Brazil matchup earlier than it should have happened.
At the very beginning – a moment of hard play and good fortune gave the US a 1-0 lead. 74 seconds into the game, Shannon Boxx hit a sharp cross to the six yard box and Brazilian defender Daiane, under pressure for US Captain Abby Wombach, deflected it into the net and the US was ahead 1-0.
USA held the lead at half time and the much vaunted Marta (5 time Player of the Year) hadn’t done much. And since the previous three games between the two sides had ended 1-0, there was a feeling that the US was very much in control.
Until at 64 minutes a complete reversal of fortune. Marta got the ball in the area, and she and USA’s Rachel Buehler ended up side by side, jostling each other, as Marta tried to flick the ball into the net. FOUL! Not just a foul — but an immediate Red Card and Buehler was ejected. Plus a penalty kick.
It looked suddenly like the US was going to be tied, and would be playing with only 10 players the rest of the game.
But then, miraculously, Hope Solo made a save on the penalty kick and the US was back in business.
But no! Somehow, belatedly, the referee awards a do-over to Brazil. Are you kidding me? And not only a do-over, but they change the kicker, now it’s Marta doing the kicking. Is that legal? Marta makes it. Now it’s 1-1, and the US is playing 10 against 11.
As this is playing out, the crowd turns on Brazil, expecially Marta — who has been whining at every call throughout the game. Raucous whistles every time Marta touches the ball.
Somehow the US makes it to extra time — and now the only thought is, hold on, get to penalty kicks where the 10-11 disadvantage won’t matter. Just hang on.
But then in the 93rd minute Marta makes an impossible goal (aided by an offside that wasn’t called — another questionable call by the referree) and Brazil is up 2-1 and now the US is well and truly in trouble. You can feel the air going out of the balloon — there’s no way they can overcome all of this — a man (woman) disadvantage; ridiculous calls by the ref; everything is going against them.
The US shows incredible determination and grit — they are on the ball like hawks every chance they get, there’s no quit in them, this much is clear. I find myself beginning to think that they’ve done themselves proud, even in defeat, and shown great character.
At 115 — five minutes to go in extra time — Erika pulls a ridiculous flop and eats up two minutes of time lying on the ground, getting carted off on a stretcher — only to leap off the stretcher and run back onto the field. The crowd jeers and whistles like crazy.
At 120 minutes the referee puts up 3 minutes of stoppage time.
And then it happens. The miracle. The ball comes out to Megan Rapinhoe at left midfield ….she dribbles it, then hits a deep cross with her left foot and serves it absolutely perfectly , just above the outstretched hands of Brazil’s goalkeeper, to Abby Wombach who is there, in perfect position, and heads it into the net. GOAL!!! Rapinoe to Wambach goes down in US sporting history — just like that. Later Rapinoe says: “I just took a touch and friggin’ smacked it with my left foot,. I don’t think I’ve ever hit a ball like that with my left foot. I got it to the back post and that beast in the air just got a hold of it.”
Not just a goal — the latest goal in world cup history.
Then it’s on to penalty kicks.
The Americans have ice in their veins. The go first, and hit the first three.
The Brazilians hit their first two.
Then the third Brazilian feints right, kicks left — and Hope Solo is there for the save.
In the end it comes down to Ali Krieger, the 5th American — and she calmly puts it in the net and the US wins.
What a game. Truly transcendent sport.
“I come from Sweden,” said U.S. coach Pia Sundhage, “and this American attitude, pulling everything together and bringing out the best performance in each other, that is contagious.”
If that came from an American I would dismiss it …. but Pia has some credibility, and maybe she’s onto something. It’s nice to feel that maybe, just maybe, there was something definitively and positively American in the character exhibited by this gritty team.