The Women’s Soccer semifinal between the United States and Brazil was one of the greatest sports matches I’ve seen, let alone the greatest soccer game. It was breathtaking, frustrating, and ultimately gratifying; eliciting every emotion possible over a game.
The U.S. got a goal within the first two minutes ((Granted, it was an own-goal by Brazil, but in soccer, you take whatever you can get.)) and held onto this lead for the rest of the first half, despite some really close chances by Brazil that had you on the edge of your seat. You had a good feeling about the game, America was holding its own.
Then FIFA happened. Shortly into the second half, everything seemed to go wrong. Buehler got a questionable red card and Brazil was awarded a penalty kick. Tension set in. Hope Solo made a magnificent save, but for naught as the refs struck again with another poor call, a yellow card for Solo, and a re-do of the penalty kick. Brazil’s All-Star player, Marta ((Do all their players have single-name names?)), took the PK and scored.
Ok so it was only tied and— Brazil suddenly scored again. Offside, but uncalled. So clearly the refs are one-sided and the U.S. would have to beat them and Brazil while down to only ten players. Then Brazil pulled out the flopping and diving shenanigans to run the clock down. ((This is one of the huge reasons I despise soccer. There were no signs of it for most of the game, and it wasn’t that prevalent in the previous three matches, so I was enjoying it more than the 2010 World Cup. It apparently exists in all variants of the sport, sadly. )) A player walked around after a corner kick, fell to the ground in agony, had to be stretchered off, then after twenty feet on the stretcher, hopped off and ran back into the game. Pathetic. It was almost hopeless, the clock ran out, there’s only three minutes of extra play. We had already been a player down for fifty-five minutes and no goals, what would an extra three help?
And then, when hope was at its nadir and everyone watching seemed to resign themselves to another controversy-laden loss, the latest goal in World Cup history was scored. ((It’s definitely the latest goal in the Women’s World Cup, but Wikipedia’s records page has the latest goals at the 120 and 121 minute marks. So I’ll go with overall, because that’s even better. )) Rapinoe made a high pass across the box, and then Wombach buried it. Prevailing against all the odds, down a player, and against a powerhouse in the soccer world.
While the shootout was a little bit underwhelming, it was great to see Hope Solo make a clutch save to give the U.S. a chance to win. At the end of the day, it took a total team effort to come away with a win. The amount of heart and determination displayed by the women was as close to the mentality of playoff hockey as I’ve seen in any other sport.
And the best part of all? A European-dominated crowd cheering for America. I don’t expect that to happen in today’s game against France, but it was nice to see happen.
Also, another great thing about this World Cup? No vuvuzelas.