I watched all 123+ minutes of the US women's soccer team's game versus Brazil yesterday, and it was one of the most exciting, breathtaking, infuriating, inspiring, incredible matches I've ever born witness to. The American side conducted themselves with dignity and creativity and in spite of the referee getting far too involved in the match, and playing 10 against 11 since the 66th minute, they persevered, and are going through to the semi-finals on a dramatic penalty kick shootout win.
That's poetic justice if you ask me because Brazil tied the game on a penalty kick after a red card. It was one of the most ridiculous calls I've ever seen. The original red-card wasn't that bad. Anytime a penalty in the box interrupts a goal scoring opportunity, a red card is almost required. But the first penalty shot was blocked by the US keeper, Hope Solo, one of the most beautiful women to ever play the game. The physics involved in blocking a penalty shot mean that it's almost impossible to do. I can't even really properly articulate how hard it is for a goal keeper to block a penalty shot, but she did it, and I was jumping out of my seat, thrashing around and screaming when she did.
Yet the referee got involved, beyond any expected level, and gave a second PK to the Brazilians for what all the experts agree, was no reason. The FIFA "law 14" says that the goalkeeper can move side to side on the baseline, as long as she does not step forward. The video below proves that there was nothing wrong with Hope Solo's poetic defense of that first penalty shot.
To be asked to defend a penalty kick twice is like ... well I have no idea exactly what it's like, but it isn't right.
And yet the US women played on, down a woman, and held Brazil into extra time. All seemed lost when the Brazilians scored in the first period of extra time, and then began to do everything they could to delay the match. Including at one time having a defender flop onto the ground as if she was hurt, wait for the medical staff to carry her off the field on a stretcher, where she immediately hopped off the thing, and trotted back onto the pitch. She wasted no less than four full minutes, and if you don't know Soccer, I can tell you that is a huge deal, because the clock never stops.
I wish I could find a video of that, because it's almost funny. It would be hilarious, in fact, if it weren't so infuriating. In the end it didn't matter though, because Megan Rapinoe came up with one of the greatest crosses from the left corner I have ever seen, in Men's or Women's Soccer, and the lovely Abby Wambach, the elder stateswoman of US Women's Soccer, headed it in, and sent the game to a shootout. Here is the latest goal ever scored in Women's World Cup Soccer, for your viewing pleasure:
Feel free to watch that a few times. I've been watching it over and over myself. The best part of the whole experience though? I watched the whole game with both my daughters, and afterwards we switched to sportscenter. I can't tell you how good it felt to have those ESPN talking heads discussing a women's sport for once.
You go girls!