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Sunday, July 10, 2011

USA! USA! USA!


I just saw one of the most exciting victories ever, as the USA women's soccer team just beat Brazil.  As soccer is about the most boring game in existence (although a case can be made for cricket), I don't know much about it, and don't remember ever watching a whole game, ever, those circumstances make this thrill all that much more remarkable.  Mind you, this was only a quarterfinals match, and the team still needs to win two more to be World Cup champions, so watch ESPN at 11:30AM (EDT) on Wednesday, July 13 to view the France-U.S. semifinals.  The other two teams are Japan and Sweden, playing the same day, same channel, at 2:15PM EDT.  The final will take place in Frankfurt on ESPN, Sunday, July 17, at 2:15PM (EDT)

The Japan victory over Germany a couple of days ago was monumental, for the matches are being held throughout this country, and they were the two-time defending champions.  Japan is ranked #4 (to #2 for Germany).  Brazil is #3 and the USA #1. Sweden is #5 and France #7. The Women's World Cup is a recent event, as China 1991 was the first, which has hosted twice, same for the U.S., plus, USA has already won twice (same as Germany).  The top 16 teams compete, but in 2015, to be hosted by #6 Canada, the number will be increased to 24.

But why was this 2-2 game incredible?  First of all, two minutes into the game, Daiane (right) of Brazil scored a goal for the U.S.  USA 1 - Brazil 0.  Watch it to appreciate how this happened, but to compound this error, she also had her penalty kick blocked at the end, resulting in Brazil going home.

Marta (left), 5'4" tall, the best player in the world, almost destroyed the U.S. in one play, for she was undercut near the goal for which Rachel Buehler of the U.S. got a red card, meaning that she was kicked out of the game, leaving the USA with 10 players against 11 for almost the entire second half.  Marta made the penalty kick, USA 1 - Brazil 1,but only after American goalie, Hope Solo (what a name, and what a defender), was called for doing something wrong after blocking the first penalty attempt by Brazil's second best player, Christiane.  The goalkeeper can move sideways, and this was absolutely not a penalty.  At the end of regulation, the American team somehow hung in there to extend the game into a 30 minute overtime.

A couple of minutes in, Marta delicately placed a shot into the U.S. goal, USA 1 - Brazil 2, all but sealing the American doom, still short, of course, one player.  Delays extend the playing time, and good thing, for the tying goal two minutes past what could have been the end was made on a header by Abby Wambach, all 31 years of age and a height of 5'10".  USA 2 - Brazil 2.  How's that for drama?

Then the penalty shootout:  five kicks from each side.  Hope Solo (left), as was almost expected, for she is about the best in the world, blocked the kick by the unfortunate Daiane, followed by a final American shot into the net by Alex Krieger to win the game.  Divine justice, for Brazilian goalkeeper Andreia (view at the expense of your getting seasick) was called for same thing as Solo.  Note that she moved forward at every attempt.  A future role for Hope will be as Wonder Woman in the next remake.
This USA win is now more memorable than the 1999 American World Cup Championship victory when Brandi Chastain kicked the winning penalty goal and then proceeded to take off her top, sending the sales of sports bras to unprecedented levels.

One parting shot.  These 1-0 games are, to me, boring.  They should allow, if not encourage, something called offside.  Then we can see some 10-9 spectaculars.

Thank heavens, though.  There are no vuvuzelas in Germany.

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