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The United States pulled off a fantastic comeback win over Brazil on Sunday, but the game exposed the problems with the USWNT. Coach Pia Sundhage will need to make adjustments to convincingly defeat France.
Sunday, the United States won a shootout, 5-3, to top Brazil after a 2-2 draw Sunday in the quarterfinals of the Women's World Cup.
The victory was redemption for the entire team but perhaps none more so than goalie Hope Solo.
In 2007, Solo was the United States goalkeeper, at least until she was pulled from the lineup heading into the semifinals against Brazil. The US lost 4-0 and Solo let loose an outburst that made her persona non grata among her teammates and many soccer fans.
Fast-forward to 2011 and she's one of the heroes of arguably U.S. women's soccer's most-memorable wins. And as far ar Solo is concerned, it couldn't have happened any other way.
“I didn’t want it to end the wrong way again,” Solo said. “I have waited a long time for this to come around again and I always kept the belief that it would end better this time.
“Some things happened on the field that we didn’t agree with but somehow it all worked out in the end and that shows how we never give up.”
“It has been a long road for me and I had some tough times to get here,” Solo said recently. “In life you get presented with opportunities and second chances and you have to take them.”
It's all going to make for a great Hope Solo movie one day. All she has to do is win two more games to make it a truly happy ending.
After an absolutely incredible comeback by the United States, culminating in a penalty shootout win, the USWNT are through to the semifinals of the 2011 FIFA Women's World Cup. With Brazil leading in stoppage time of the second period of extra time, Abby Wambach put in a header on a Megan Rapinoe cross, equalizing the match at 2-2. Hope Solo's save on Daiane was the decisive moment in the shootout, and the USA won by a final score of 5-3 on penalties.
The game was nearly marred by poor refereeing, but thankfully the story at the end of the match became the players on the field, as the game ended up being decided by Wambach, Solo and company as they fought back for victory. The United States went down to 10 women when Rachel Buehler was sent off in the second half, just one of many questionable decisions, but they were able to force penalty kicks with a one woman disadvantage, where they would ultimately claim the victory.
When the match started, it looked like everything was going to go the way of the United States. In less than 90 seconds they had a lead, with Daiane botching a clearance on a Shannon Boxx cross, deflecting the ball into the back of the net, giving the USWNT a 1-0 lead. The rest of the half was an up and down affair, with Brazil perhaps looking like the better side, but the first period ended with the United States leading.
Carli Lloyd picked up a yellow card in the first half, and the referee's first major error came at the beginning of the second half when she failed to show Lloyd red. The U.S. midfielder appeared to commit an intentional handball, but the referee didn't see the infraction. Unfortunately, it was a sign of things to come.
In the 66th minute, Marta played herself into a great goal scoring position by beating Rachel Buehler and Alex Krieger with a lovely bit of skill, but she went down before she could get a shot off. It appeared that Marta jumped up to get to a bouncing ball, then fell down when she landed on Buehler, but the referee saw it as a foul and gave a penalty before showing Buehler a straight red card.
Hope Solo saved the first penalty, seemingly by legal means, but the referee ordered the penalty to be retaken. It's possible that it could have been called back for encroachment, not Solo coming off her line, but the U.S. defenders took one early step at most, and the referee was not looking in their direction. In any event, the decision to order the retake was, at best, curious and requiring an explanation. Marta stepped up to take the second attempt and converted, tying the game at 1-1. Eventually, the game would go to extra time.
Early on in extra time, Brazil scored a goal to go ahead, once again created mostly by Marta's incredible skill, but helped along by some questionable officiating. Though there was nothing wrong with Marta's brilliant finish, the cross came in from Maurine, who was offside when she received the ball.
All hope appeared to be lost for the USWNT for the majority of the extra time period. With just a few minutes remaining, Brazil's Erika faked an injury to waste time, much to the displeasure of the crowd. After receiving four minutes of treatment, she hopped up and started running around to loud booing. Her maneuver was almost successful, but then, the goal happened.
In the second minute of stoppage time and the 122nd minute of the game, Megan Rapinoe sent a brilliant floated cross from the left wing to the far post. Abby Wambach got herself open and hit a brilliant powerful header to the near post, leveling the match at 2-2 and forcing penalty kicks at the death.
Even if the referee had a poor game, in the penalty shootout, she at least proved that she was consistent. The first penalty taker for the United States was Shannon Boxx, who had her first attempt saved by Andreia. However, she was a mile off her line and the referee ordered a re-take, which Boxx converted. Cristiane, Carli Lloyd, Marta - who was booed mercilessly by the neutrals in the crowd - and Wambach all converted their penalties before Daiane stepped up.
Having allowed the own goal in the opening 90 seconds of the match, things were already not going Daiane's way. Things would get worse for her, as her penalty kick was saved brilliantly by Hope Solo, who had an absolutely unbelievable game for the United States for all 120 minutes and penalty kicks.
Megan Rapinoe put the pressure on Grazielle, converting the next penalty, but Grazielle rose to the occasion and sent Solo the wrong way before coolly converting her penalty kick. That transitioned the pressure to right back Alex Krieger, but like Grazielle, she stepped up calm and confident. Krieger slotted her penalty low to Andreia's left, giving her little chance to make a save.
The United States now advances to the semifinal to play France, but for at least one night, they won't be thinking about that. Instead, they'll be celebrating their incredible victory, which will surely be remembered as an all-time classic and one of the most dramatic matches in the history of world football.
Unsurprisingly, Brazil has scored a goal to take the lead on the 10-woman United States in extra time. Also unsurprisingly, the goal was scored by Marta with an absolutely world class finish. And, also unsurprisingly for this game, the goal was not scored by completely legal means. Though Marta deserved her goal, as her finish was fantastic and she did nothing illegal, the referee has once again made a mistake.
The goal was assisted by Brazil's Maurine, who made an overlapping run to the byline on the left. Unfortunately for her, she was offsides when she was played the ball. Fortunately for her, the officials disagreed and she put in a cross that was brilliantly flicked into the back of the net by Marta.
Abby Wambach almost brought the U.S women back into the game with a left-footed strike in the 98th minute, but Andreia made a fantastic save to keep her team in front.
After a wild and eventful 90 minutes of football that featured a couple of goals and some terrible refereeing going both ways, the United States and Brazil are headed to extra time in their 2011 FIFA Women's World Cup quarterfinal match, tied up at 1-1. If the USWNT are going to advance, they're going to have to hold on with a disadvantage, as they're currently playing with 10 women.
Rachel Buehler's red card is making life tough for the U.S. women, but they've actually looked a tiny bit better between the time she got sent off and the whistle for the end of normal time. Pia Sundhage has not replaced her with a substitution, and is instead playing a three woman back line.
Sundhage has made two substitutions, both relatively like for like. Megan Rapinoe has replaced Lauren Cheney, while Alex Morgan has replaced Amy Rodriguez. The USWNT has one substitute left in the bag that they can use to change the game.
The Women's World Cup quarterfinal match between the United States and Brazil has officially jumped the shark. Thanks in combination to some fantastic skill by Marta and some terrible refereeing, Brazil is now level with the United States, with the score level at 1-1. Marta converted a penalty conceded by Rachel Buehler, but that doesn't even begin to tell the story of what happened during the sequence.
First, Marta did extremely well to beat two defenders in the box with a flick over the top of them before she ran onto the ball towards the goal. The ball bounced up and Marta jumped up for it, making contact with Buehler and falling down. The referee thought that Buehler fouled Marta and showed her a straight red card for denial of a clear goal scoring opportunity before pointing to the penalty spot. Though the foul probably should not have been given, the referee deserves credit for being consistent and following the letter of the law, as she had to show Buehler a red card in that situation if she thought there was a foul.
That mistake was completely understandable and one that any referee in the world could have made, but her next mistake was indefensible. Hope Solo saved the initial penalty, but a retake was given. The referee was not looking at any United States players who might have encroached on the penalty, and Solo never left her line. Solo was given a yellow card, and Marta converted on the re-take.
At halftime of their 2011 FIFA Women's World Cup quarterfinal matchup, the United States is leading Brazil by a score of 1-0, but it doesn't necessarily feel like they're winning the game. Since the own goal that Brazil put in just 90 seconds into the match, it's been an exciting up and down match with Brazil having more clear cut chances and the better of the play. Thanks to some good luck and some good play from Hope Solo the USWNT is holding onto their lead, but they will need more of the ball - or a quick goal - to keep that lead.
Brazil look most dangerous on the break, where their speed has been tough for the U.S. to deal with. The United States back line - particularly Amy LePeilbet and Rachel Buehler, has been better than their match against Sweden, but not exactly by a wide margin. The U.S. has a very good chance at scoring another goal and winning this game, but it would be surprising to see Brazil go the entire match without scoring a goal.
The midfield is where the USWNT has struggled, as Carli Lloyd and Shannon Boxx have not tackled well, have been caught out of position, and don't look like simple passes are part of their gameplan. The United States are a big and fast team who are good on the break and good playing a direct style, but a little bit of possession would probably go a long way in the second half. Megan Rapinoe, Tobin Heath and Lori Lindsey are all available on the bench, and if any of them are used they could seriously help the United States keep the ball.
After just two minutes of play in their 2011 FIFA Women's World Cup quarterfinal, the United States has a 1-0 lead over Brazil after scoring their second fastest goal ever in the World Cup, hitting the back of the net after just 90 seconds. Though the effort of Shannon Boxx and Abby Wambach is what created the chance, the goal was an absolute gift from Brazil, as their porous defense showed off their deficiencies early.
Wambach started the meat and potatoes of the move with a flick out wide left, which was found by Boxx. Normally a holding central midfielder, Boxx accounted for movement by her teammates by sprinting to occupy a vacated space on the left, running onto the ball. She put a dangerous cross across the six yard box, but there were three Brazil defenders in the area to just one U.S. attacker. Apparently Daiane was not aware of the situation and what was going on around her, as she attempted an extremely difficult clearance and ended up putting the ball into her own net.
The goal was a gift, but the United States can hardly afford to sit on their one goal lead. Brazil are a team that have the ability to score in bunches, while their defense has lived up to their negative reputation.
Everyone is back and healthy for the United States for their 2011 FIFA Women's World Cup quarterfinal matchup against Brazil, as Abby Wambach and Heather O'Reilly both make expected starts. Shannon Boxx starts as well, preferred to Lori Lindsey after getting a couple days worth of rest. The interchanging between the forwards and wingers of the USWNT will be important, as Brazil play with a back three who can get drawn apart by teams with effective wide play and fluid front lines. Here are the linueps.
United States lineup: Solo; Krieger, Rampone, Buehler, LePeilbet, O'Reilly, Boxx, Lloyd, Cheney, Rodriguez, Wambach
Brazil lineup: Andreia; Erika, Daiana, Aline, Maurine, Formiga, Ester, Fabiana, Cristiane, Rosana, Marta
Of course, five time World Player of the Year Marta will be the biggest concern of the United States. She's having a fantastic tournament, and she tore the U.S. women apart in the 2007 World Cup. A semifinal match against France awaits the winner of this game. Kickoff is at 11:30 am ET from Dresden, Germany.
Thanks to a well deserved upset win over the United States by Sweden, the neutral public has been set up with a fantastic dream quarterfinal matchup in the 2011 FIFA Women's World Cup between the USA and Brazil. Of course, fans of both the U.S. women and Brazil won't be particularly happy with how the group stages played out, giving the two pre-tournament implied semifinalists an extremely difficult quarterfinal matchup, but at least they should be treated to some exciting football.
Both Brazil and the United States have the talent to beat any other team in the world, but both have shown serious flaws to begin this competition. Still, despite those flaws, the winner of this match will be the favorite to win the World Cup if the game is very competitive or if there is a definitive winner, thanks to Germany's surprise elimination.
On one side, the United States boast the deepest roster remaining in the competition. On the other side, Brazil boast the best player in the world, Marta. She was lackluster in Brazil's opening game, but she has been her absolutely brilliant stuff in the last two matches, and she should prove an extremely difficult matchup for the USWNT back line. Of course, she's not alone up front, as Christiane and Fabiana are also brilliant players.
The United States have some fitness concerns with Abby Wambach and Heather O'Reilly, who are carrying knocks, and Shannon Boxx, who has begun to show her age in this tournament, but all three are expected to be fit to start on Sunday.
Japan and Germany provided the biggest shock of the tournament, but the best viewing of the quarterfinal round is probably going to happen on Sunday when the United States and Brazil take the field. France awaits the winner of this match, and no matter who prevails, the semifinal should be a thriller.
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