I’ve slowly been warming up to the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup and if you watched this weekend – especially on Sunday – I would imagine you are too. Three of the four Quarterfinal games went to extra time with two being decided on penalty kick shootouts. After this weekend’s somewhat surprisingly entertaining action here are a few thoughts on the United States and tournament in general.
1 . What A Win – The United States scored in the 2nd minute thanks to an own goal by Brazil’s Daiane but received straight red card in the 65th minute having to play with ten players for the rest of regulation and eventually extra time. Brazil evened things up with Marta converting on PK after the red card which ultimately sent the game to extra time. Marta got her second goal just two minutes into extra time scoring with a brilliant flick over Hope Solo putting the U.S. in a massive hole. Despite being down a man, the U.S. never seemed out of it and managed find late goal in the 122nd minute – two minutes into stoppage time, in extra time – thanks to great ball from Megan Rapinoe to Abby Wambach who headed home the game-tying-goal. Wambach’s unbelievable goal sent the game to penalty kicks with the U.S. defeating Brazil 5-3 thanks to a huge save by Hope Solo and excellent penalty kicks from the United States. I hope you were watching because it was an epic win by the U.S. Women’s Soccer Team.
2. Test Passed – The United States certainly didn’t dominate but they played well enough for the first 65 minutes and even seemed to raise their game down a player after Rachel Buehler’s red card. Brazil was among the tournament favorites along with the U.S. and Germany and appeared to be the American’s toughest opponent en route to the World Cup Final. Hope Solo and the U.S. held Marta, Christiane and Brazil in-check for most of the game and never gave up despite the difficult circumstances against one of the world’s best teams.
3. Buehler Red Card & 2nd PK – Not only was the straight red card to Rachel Buehler questionable but referee Jacqui Melksham then gave Brazil a second penalty kick because Hope Solo left her line – which she didn’t – or encroachment by a teammate before the PK, something that never gets called. Hope Solo made an oustanding save on the first PK against Christiane but was beaten by Marta on the second after Melksham made the ridiculous after the questionable red card.
4. It’s the U.S.’s Tournament To Lose – The U.S. Women are now remaining super power in the tournament and the clear favorite provided they can recover in time for Wednesday’s Semifinal against France. After defeating the talented Brazilians on penalty kicks and Germany (the favorite and host) being upset by Japan it’s now the United State’s tournament to lose.
5. Remaining Opponents - The U.S. is the clear favorite but the remaining challengers are decent based on the FIFA Women’s World Rankings with No. 4 Japan, No. 5 Sweden, and No. 7 France still in the tournament. Sweden already beat the United States in group play but they wouldn’t see each other until the Final. I’m not sure the Semifinal matches will be as exciting as the Quarterfinals were but the match-ups appear to be decent.
Photo via zimbio.com
Final Thoughts: Without Hope Solo, Abby Wambach, Shannon Boxx, Megan Rapinoe and the American mentality of never giving up, the U.S. Women wouldn’t be advancing to the Semifinals on Wednesday. Hope Solo in particular was outstanding – she had fours saves, she stayed in the game mentally after saving the first penalty kick and the giving up a goal on the ridicuolus penalty retake, she had no chance on Marta’s brilliant flick in extra time, and she saved Daiane’s PK in the shootout.
Here’s the TV info for the Semifinals on Wednesday for those of you that don’t already know:
France vs United States - Semifinal 11 – 12:00 PM ET – ESPN
Japan vs Sweden – Semifinal #2 – 2:45 PM ET – ESPN