Wambach and Rapinoe celebrate their 123rd minute equalizerWhile Wambach hasn’t been scoring at quite the rate of her 2007 campaign, she was the perfect recipient of Rapinoe’s pinpoint cross in the 123rd minute to bring the US back from the dead. That’s right, 123 minutes. That’s 90 minutes of regulation time, 30 minutes of extra time, and two-plus minutes of “injury” time (if that’s what you want to call the Brazilian antics). Oh, and did I mention the US played the last 55+ minutes of the match with 10 men? The 31 year-old Wambach, the most experienced of the American forwards, was the ideal candidate to be lurking around the far post ready to revive the American spirit. And just as you’d expect a career international 120 goal scorer to do, she hammered home the equalizer that saw the match through to a penalty shootout.She started out as “that blonde girl”, then slowly transitioned to “that fast winger”, then to “the Pixie”, and ultimately to “Pixie Dust”. What else could explain the 25+ yard cross she sprinkled right onto Abby Wambach’s head in the final minute of stoppage time? She was impassioned, if not erratic, from the 55th minute when she was introduced for Lauren Cheney. Her through-balls were creative and threatening, and her energy was unmatched. Forward on goal-scoring opportunities? Check. First back in the defensive third when Brazil was on the front foot? Check. Threatening delivery-woman on set pieces? Check. She was the perfect embodiment of that never give up, never say die attitude that characterizes the women’s national team. I’m fighting off the chill bumps as I type..
Hope Solo - best name in sportsQuick shout out to taylorcdouglas for supplying me with the Hope Solo nickname. What is there to say about the world’s best keeper? Her positioning was flawless as usual, she was aware and acrobatic when Marta attempted to sneak a few corners in directly from the flag, and she posterized - soccer style - Dalane with her sprawling, fully-extended, one-armed save. Vindication for her early, rebuffed penalty save that led to a re-kick and ultimate match-equalizer. Although I would love to have heard Hope dismantle the officiating in another epic post-game interview, I think I can live with the resulting victory. The Bad - The Officials
Buehler's still trying to figure out what she did wrongYou’ve got to admire their resolve; they did what they could to send Brazil through to the semis. After an abominable call saw US defender Rachel Buehler sent off for playing excellent, albeit desperate, defense, Cristiane stepped up to take an undeserved PK for Brazil. Hope guessed right, and the football world was back in balance as the Americans gathered in celebration. It wasn’t to last however. Whether the US defense encroached on the box early or not, that didn’t appear to be the call. Hope received a yellow card for leaving her line before the penalty was taken, a transgression clearly exonerated by replay. The penalty was retaken, equalizing the score and ultimately sending the match into extra time. It’s unfortunate that FIFA coddles it’s referees. I’d be very interested to hear an explanation on the ruling - which isn’t likely. I look forward to a tournament unmarred by officiating miscues, a tournament predicated more on team skill and talent than referee blunders. Simply put, one referee is not sufficient enough to officiate an entire football pitch. Comparatively, international hockey uses four officials on a surface roughly 1/3rd the size of a football field to police less than half the amount of players. Get with the times, FIFA. Also maybe work on that whole corruption thing you’ve got going onThe Ugly - Mostly Marta, but also Erika
I'm going to employ the whole "if you can't say anything nice" rule for this oneYeah yeah, “best player in the world”, yadda yadda. There’s a reason why the entire stadium was booing Marta every time she touched the ball, every time she set up for a corner, and especially when she stepped up for both of her penalties. She flops, she acts, she cries, and she hypocricises - I’ll be contacting Webster soon in order to get that officially declared a word. I’ve been giving the Women’s World Cup credit all along for their lack of “gamesmanship”, but what we saw from Marta & Co. this afternoon was borderline El Classico-esque, the ugly version. After four clear dives by Marta herself, she took offense to what she considered to be a dive on Wambach’s part. She was awarded a yellow from the referee, at which point Marta decided to get in the ref’s face, place her hands on the ref, and give her a little shove before running back to her position. How placing your hands on a referee doesn’t earn you a second yellow, I’ll never understand.Erika, a Brazilian defender, perpetrated the most heinous and disgraceful of the “gamesmanship” tactics her squad employed throughout the contest. Late in the second half of extra time, the Americans were on the front foot, consistently pressuring the Brazilian net. Several Brazilians were going down with “injuries”, but none so blatantly fake as Erika. Brazil cleared a US corner, of which replay confirmed Erika escaped unscathed. Ten or fifteen seconds later, however, she decided to lay down on the ground and writhe in obvious “pain”. The medics rushed towards her to begin their examination. They hooked her up to a stretcher and took her out the back line to administer treatment, at which point she unbuckled herself, hopped off the stretcher, and sprinted to the fourth official to be allowed back onto the pitch. Ignore the useless step-overs and ball skills people, this is the Brazilian game. Justly, the crowd was incensed by her actions and let her know how they felt. The referee rightfully brandished her with a yellow card and the US went on to score in the final seconds of the injury time earned by the two to three minutes she spent rolling around on the ground in pain. Pure justice.
Next up for the Americans: France. See you Wednesday. Watch highlights from Sunday’s USA v. Brazil WWC match here: