International Soccer
Magical moment for Wambach, U.S.

By Brian Westfall, Soccer Editor

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - As Abby Wambach sprinted toward the corner flag, 122 minutes into Sunday's Women's World Cup quarterfinal against Brazil, the immediate reaction was: Did that just happen?

Did Megan Rapinoe deliver a pass, at the end of a sprint down the left side of the field, that just cleared - by an inch, maybe just millimeters - the gloves of Brazil goalkeeper Andreia?

Did Wambach - who to put it generously didn't have her scoring touch so far in the tournament (she scored her only previous goal off her upper arm after all) - rise to meet the cross perfectly and drive a header just inside the post?

Did Brazil, which played with a one-player advantage for nearly 60 minutes (if you count stoppage time from the second half and both overtimes) after United States defender Rachel Buehler was sent off, actually blow its golden chance?

With seconds left, in the second overtime, of a Women's World Cup quarterfinal match, when Wambach tied the match at 2-2 with just seconds remaining?

The unforgettable end to overtime was a moment every player dreams of being a part of.
About 20 minutes later - exactly 12 years to the date the U.S. edged China on penalty kicks to win the 1999 World Cup (remember Brandi Chastain, anyone?) - the Americans marked the anniversary with a 5-3 shootout win over Brazil.

"Even when we were a player down and a goal behind in extra time," Solo said, "you sensed that something was going to happen."

Although this shootout victory just broke a 2-2 deadlock, and sent the U.S. to the semifinals for the sixth time in as many World Cups, the unforgettable end to overtime was a moment every player, manager and fan - of the winning team - dreams of being a part of or witnessing.

And with Brazil and two-time defending champion and host Germany eliminated in the quarterfinals, the U.S. - despite a loss to Sweden in the group round - is the clear favorite to win its third World Cup.

There may have been more eyes on Landon Donovan last summer, when he scored in stoppage time against Algeria to rescue a spot in the knockout stage and first place in Group C of the World Cup for the U.S., but it pales in comparison.

After Brazilian Daiane scored an own goal in the second minute, not much went right for the United States for the next 120 minutes of match time.

Buehler was sent off after a controversial foul in the area. Brazil scored off the ensuing penalty kick, on its second try. Don't worry, you're not the only one still trying to figure out what happened.

Although U.S. goalie Hope Solo saved the initial penalty kick by Cristiane, it was called back because either Solo came off her line too soon - which replays clearly showed she didn't - or a U.S. player entered the area - which appeared to be accurate (but only by inches) - before the kick was taken.

Regardless, Marta didn't waste the second opportunity and buried the penalty. At that point, forget about it. Four years after Brazil punished the U.S. when it went down to 10 players in the World Cup semis, this game was all but over.

Although it took Marta - the reigning five-time player of the year - until the first overtime to put Brazil in front, it was always just a matter of time. So when she scored in the 92nd minute for her 14th World Cup goal, Brazil was now just 28 minutes from the semis.

Marta had tied Germany's Birgit Prinz for the all-time World Cup scoring lead, and if Brazil could close out the U.S., it was the clear favorite to finally lift its first Cup trophy.

But that 28 minutes took a little longer than anticipated, as a few Brazilian players remained down after injuries - then popped back up after miraculously being healed - and the second extra session creeped toward the 122nd minute.

Wambach is sure glad it did. She used the added time to score the latest goal in Women's World Cup history. Then, just like 12 years ago, the U.S. converted all five penalty kicks and its goalkeeper, this time Solo, made one huge save.

"It's hard to put all the feelings that are going through my head right now," U.S. coach Pia Sundhage said, "into words."

Did that just happen? Yes.

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