Sunday, July 10, 2011

Most. Thrilling. Soccer. Game. Ever.

How’s your summer going? C and R are exhausted from watching the USA’s Women’s World Cup quarterfinal victory over Brazil today! (And we just sat on a couch. Those soccer players had to play123 minutes.) Yes that’s right, the game went into overtime, with penalty kicks and everything. Dramatic as all get out. Bad refs, yellow cards galore, tall headers and Solo saves, it was amazing.

We can’t really do the game justice, nor add any superlatives to what has already been written. But that won’t stop us from blabbing on about the game.

To open the game, Team USA scored in the second minute. Abby Wambach, who we were chiding on Twitter for being the unluckiest forward at the World Cup this year, scored. Or did she? Replays showed the Brazilian defender accidentally kicked it in. (We have joked for years that in other soccer-crazed countries they shoot you for it, based on real life incidents in Central and South America, but then R said this is women’s soccer, so she is safe. Don’t know whether to laugh at that one or not). But a goal is a goal and it inflated the Americans 1 - nil, to use the correct terminology.

Then, in the second half, the center referee got involved. Yellow cards were been given out indiscriminately (By our count, eight yellow cards and one red). There was flopping on both sides to be sure, but eight cards?

Now, Marta for Brazil is very dangerous, and Team USA was using two players to track her.  When she got loose in the box, the US’s Rachel Buehler tangled with her and brought her down. Probably was a penalty kick, at worst a yellow card for Buelher. But the ref went all the way to red. Buelher was sent off the field and the US was not allowed to replace her. Watch and judge for yourself.

To make matters worse, US goalie Hope Solo stopped the point-blank penalty kick. But the ref said she moved off the line, or else one of the US players moved in the box too early, she was not clear which. Either way, Brazil got to retake the penalty kick. Solo argued the call and got a yellow card for the effort. So Brazil sent up Marta and she drilled it home. The score was tied and Team USA had to play a man down, ten versus eleven for the next twenty minutes. Against the best scorer in the world. “Pressure Makes Us”, says Team USA in the commercials? But what will it make?

Team USA played inspired ball. They were the ones on the attack for most of the second half even though they were short a player. After 90 minutes the game was tied and the rules stated they would play two 15 minutes periods and whichever team was ahead would win. Minutes into the first overtime period, Marta put her team ahead with an amazing backward lob to the far post. Replays show that Brazil was just a teeny bit off sides on the pass into Marta, but since C and R hate the off sides rule anyway, what can you do? Now Team USA was up a creek without a goal, down 2-1.

Okay, you had to see the flopping and stalling the Brazilians were doing, it was bizarre. At one point around the 117th minute, a defender went down (the clock still runs) and they brought out a stretcher, strapped her down and carried her off. As soon as the stretcher got out of bounds, she unstrapped herself and got up. A soccer miracle! She was given a yellow card and the ref said she was going to add extra minutes to the end of the game. (Remember that)

With the time running out, the 30 minutes passed with the USA losing still 2-1. They have now played one hundred and twenty minutes, fifty of them with only ten players. The ref gave three extra minutes for Brazil's stalling. One hundred and twenty one minutes, one hundred and twenty two minutes… With seconds left, Megan Rapinoe kicked a long ball towards goal. Tall, tall Abby Wambach fearlessly leaped in the air a second before the Brazilian goalie’s outstretched hands could get there and headed the ball squarely in the net. She tied the game with seconds left.

Here, watch for yourself:

Make sure you watch the third replay; it shows just how slam-bang it was over the goalie’s outstretched hands.

Now, penalty kicks. “Did we mention this was the 12th anniversary of soccer great Brandi Chastain’s penalty kick winner in the Women’s’ World Cup in 1999?” said the announcer. And Brandi was in the booth now? Oh yeah, good karma for Team USA. Both teams make their first two goals. Then, just like in 1999 against China, on the third shot, goalie Hope Solo correctly guessed which way the Brazil player was going and blocked the shot. Team USA up 3-2. Each team makes another goal, so the penalty kick score is 4-3. If this last USA player makes it, it’s over. She calmly places the ball in the corner. Team USA wins. Ali Krieger becomes this decade’s Brandi Chastain, although she didn’t take off her shirt. Team USA back from the dead, wins the match. It was the most amazing and bizarre thing we have ever seen.

To top it all off, we won wristbands from Brandi Chastain’s charity, Reach Up and Facebook (knew social media would pay off!). Take a gander here. They look like cookie cutters of the iconic moment when Brandi scored the goal and whipped off her shirt, but they are rubber bracelets you wear on your wrists. They are popular with all the kids, and now C and R have them. Jealous much? We have extras; maybe if you are nice to C and R we will send you some, too.

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