By all accounts, it was over for the United States in the Women's World Cup. The book was closing, the fat lady was warming up her voice. Brazil's ill-gotten 2-1 lead appeared safe, just as it appeared Team USA was about to finish off what would've been their worst Women's World Cup finish since the WWC began. After 120-plus minutes of soccer, to say Team USA was on their last legs is almost an understatement. More accurately, their 2011 World Cup appearance was on its last heartbeat, preparing for the inevitable flat line, as Brazil's 2-1 lead looked like it was going to hold, ending Team USA's 2011 World Cup.
And then, in the 122 minute, two minutes into stoppage time, Megan Rapinoe delivered the most exquisite cross to the head of Abby Wambach, who, in turn, buried the ball in the back of the net, courtesy of a ruthless header, causing an Ian Darke's explosion of "Abby Wambach has saved the USA's life." Had the cross been an inch or two shorter, Andreia, Brazil's goalkeeper, would've parried the ball, moving it out of harm's way. As it stands, Rapinoe's cross was true, so true, in fact, it surprised even her:
"I took a touch and smoked it," Rapinoe told reporters. "I don't think I've ever hit a cross with my left foot that well. And then that beast in the air got a hold of it."
Wambach's forehead did the rest:
Talk about waiting to the last minute. Wambach offered this take on her high stakes goal:
"To be honest," said striker Abby Wambach, who tied the game in the 122nd minute, "I literally can't believe what just happened. The last three hours of my life have been some of the most emotionally up and down moments I've experienced, and I'm glad to be able to say I did it with my teammates because in the end it took all of us."
Wambach's cool finish pushed the game into the penalty shootout phase, and thanks to a fantastic Hope Solo save, the United States prevailed 5-3, giving them the overall victory and advancing them to the semifinal of the Women's World Cup, where they will face France.
Two additional heroes emerged from the Brazil/USA game: Hope Solo and Alex Krieger. Solo had a magnificent save during the penalty shootout, giving Team USA the window it needed to win. The other was Alex Krieger, who scored the decisive fifth penalty, propelling her team to the semifinals. While Solo is already the face of the 2011 World Cup team, her save may have just pushed her into the superstar realm, provided if Team USA can finish the job and win it all. There's a YouTube of penalty shootout, just in case you want to relive the occasion:
Team USA's victory was so dramatic, the rest of the sports world couldn't help but notice, and joined in the celebration on everyone's favorite Internet communication tool, Twitter. This includes such sports dignitaries like LeBron James and Dick Vitale:
#HopeSolo. Congrats ladies!USA!!
@hopesolo hell of a game today. Congrats
Congrats ladies...never say die attitude!!!
ABBY ABBY - Super as USA BEATS Brazil- like hockey I don' t know much about soccer but I can appreciate the intensity & emotion involved!
Krieger also weighed in on the historic moment:
#stillspeechless so proud of my teammates! Ah so coolUnreal!! Woke up with the biggest smile on my face...
We're proud of you, too, Alex.
From one who covers social media on a daily basis, it's nice to see it being used in such a manner. Granted, the "Rise & Grind" tweets are harmless enough, but to see other professional athletes acknowledge the great finish to the Brazil/USA game shows the true appeal of Twitter. Normally, ESPN would have to call and/or track these athletes down just to get a soundbite, an exercise they may not have any success in.
With Twitter, that's no longer an issue.
As for the victorious ladies, their next game is Wednesday against France, in what should be another pressure-filled game; although, considering the way Team USA handled the pressure of the Brazil game, they should be up for another battle, provided they aren't emotionally spent following such a dramatic finish.