The U.S. Women's team celebrates during the penalty shoot out during the World Cup Quarter Final match against Brazil (Photo by Scott Heavey/Getty Images)
Well, not quite.
Everyone expected that the #1 ranked U.S.A. Women's Soccer team would be playing in the World Cup semi-finals.
It's just the path to get here that no one expected: A shocking upset to Sweden forcing an quarterfinal matchup with Brazil. A decidely pro-U.S. (or anti-Brazil) crowd. The U.S. getting the lead just 2 minutes in on an own-goal. An undeserved red card on D Rachel Buehler for a soft foul in the penalty box forcing the Americans to play a man down. A great save by goalkeeper Hope Solo on the penalty kick to preserve the lead. A reversal of fortune when the referee awarded a rekick and gave Solo a yellow card (for reasons still unclear). A suddenly tied game when Brazilian star and flopper extraordinaire Marta coverted the rekick. A gutty performance by an outmanned U.S. team hanging on to force overtime. Brazil scoring for a 2-1 lead in early OT when the refs missed a clear offside play. Desperate attacks by the U.S. matched by desperate efforts by the Brazilians to stall and kill time. And finally, after over 121 minutes, with the American women about 90 seconds away from being sent home, this...
The latest goal in World Cup history, in the 122nd minute, which ironically came during the 3 minutes of stoppage time awarded by officials for Brazil's embarrassing efforts to kill the clock by playing Lazarus, saved the U.S. from its earliest exit from the World Cup and gave them renewed life. No way would fate allow such an incredible story to end badly, right? Right. Tied at 2 at the end of extra time, the match would be decided by penalty kicks. Solo made a briliant diving save on Brazil's 3rd kick, while the U.S. women confidently nailed all fiveof their own, sealing the victory, and advancing the women to the semifinal match.
Just like everyone drew it up. As N wrote this week, it was a magical moment in sports. For anyone who wants to relive it, the entire replay can be seen here on espn3. Now time to get ready for some more of this.
Oh yeah. This tournament isn't over. And the task continues today with a match against France, who won in dramatic fashion of their own, beating England on penalty kicks, as well.
For the U.S., Becky Sauerbraun will start on defense for Buehler, who received the controversial red card and is ineligible for today's game. Abby Wambach is still slowed by a bad Achilles', but a slowed Wambach proved good enough against Brazil. Our own Bruin Lauren Cheney has started every match at midfield and will look to help control the pace and flow of the game. Cheney was replaced by Megan Rapinoe in the second half against Brazil, but we won't hold that against her since it was Rapinoe's perfect cross that led to that epic last minute tying header by Wambach.
The French have never played in a World Cup semi-final before, but will get a lift from the return of their starting goalkeeper who missed the England match due to a red card suspension. France should enjoy strong fan support, playing less than 250 miles from Paris (hopefully their fans are watching The Tour de France instead). The team brings an offensive mindset and has scored a lot of goals in this tournament, with all but one of them coming in the second half. Obviously, France gets better as the game progresses and (unlike its previous armies) refuses to quit.
But, as Brazil knows all too well, the U.S. has a never-say-die attitude of its own:
"I come from Sweden," U.S. women's head coach Pia Sundhage said after Sunday's 123-minute thriller, "and this American attitude is contagious."
Never give up. Never give up. This is your open thread. Have at it. Go Bruins and Go U.S.A.!