The women’s World Cup tournament really came alive on Sunday with one of the greatest exhibitions of football in any gender seen in the tournament.
Every element of excitement was there in the quarter-final game between USA and Brazil in Germany.
There was an own goal, retaken penalties, a sending off, an injury-time equaliser and a penalty shoot-out win that swept the US past Brazil and into the Women’s World Cup semi-finals after the teams drew 2-2 in Dresden.
Playing for 55 minutes with a woman down, the gritty Americans never gave up against two-goal Marta and the Brazilians and got a last-gasp equaliser in extra time from forward Abby Wambach to set up the penalty shootout.
“We never give up,” Wambach said. “We never gave up.” They won the shootout 5-3, when Alex Krieger slotted the last penalty past Andreia.
Superstar Marta turned into the villain of the sellout crowd of crowd of 25,000 after her game was characterised as much by relentless whining as her superb skill. She set up and converted Brazil’s penalty to level the match in the 65th minute and then scored with a delicate volley in the 92nd minute.
With the Americans reduced to 10 players after the penalty, they still kept up the pressure they had used to dominate proceedings since a clumsy own-goal from Brazil’s Daiane in the second minute.
Yet it long looked like they could not make up for the lack of one of their players, and the presence of Marta on the opposition side. But then Wambach came alive with one last desperate attempt, soaring high and heading in the equaliser in the 122nd minute. “I am so happy it went in,” she said.
Those two strike made Marta became the joint-best World Cup scorer with 14 overall, equalling Germany’s Birgit Prinz on the all-time list. Marta, though, is just 25, while Prinz effectively retired from the World Cup with Germany’s loss against Japan on Saturday.
Wambach and a missed penalty from Daiane made sure Brazil’s women still have no major title after finishing second in the last World Cup and last two Olympics.
Sports presenter Nikolai Hill of Radio Cayman thought this match was one of the greatest he had ever seen – including men. “I got up especially early to watch it on TV and enjoyed minute.
“On paper it was always going to be a good match and it actually more than lived up to expectations. There was so much excitement from start to finish. And technically both sides were superb too. The way the US kept going despite losing a player was amazing.”
Meanwhile, Hope Powell says she is considering quitting as coach after England’s World Cup quarter-final defeat by France. England lost 4-3 on penalties in Leverkusen following a 1-1 draw after extra-time.
Powell, who has been in charge for 13 years, said it might be time for her to take a developmental role within the Football Association.
The semis are on Wednesday. France play the USA and Japan face Sweden. The final is on Sunday.