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.