U.S. knocks Brazil out of Women's World Cup, 5-3 on penalty kicks
The U.S. has beaten Brazil in the Women's World Cup, keeping the American dream of winning a third Cup alive and well.
In an astonishing finish to an already dramatic and incident-filled match, U.S. forward Abby Wambach scored in injury time at the end of extra time to salvage a 2-2 tie and send the quarterfinal game in Dresden, Germany, to penalty kicks.
Shannon Boxx, Carli Lloyd, Wambach, Megan Rapinoe and Ali Krieger each made their shots count, while luckless defender Daiane, who earlier had scored an own goal, saw her effort saved by U.S. goalkeeper Hope Solo.
That meant the U.S. advanced, 5-3 on penalty kicks, and is still on course to add a third World Cup to those won in 1991 and 1999. For Brazil, it is all over.
Wambach's last-minute goal, off a cross by Rapinoe, was her 11th in Women's Wolrd Cup play, one short of the U.S. record set by Michelle Akers.
Two goals by Marta, the first to tie the match and the second to give Brazil the lead, appeared enough for the South Americans to win the contentious and foul-ridden match, but that was not to be.
The victory sends the American team through to a semifinal meeting with France in Moenchengladbach on Wednesday.
In Wednesday's other semifinal, in Frankfurt, Japan will play Sweden, which overcame Australia, 3-1, on Sunday in the day's earlier quarterfinal.
Although the Swedes' victory was clear cut, the U.S. triumph was anything but, and to judge by the reaction of fans at Dresden's Rudolf-Harbig Stadium, it had a lot to do with officiating that was not up to the expected standard.
After the U.S. had taken the lead in the third minute when Brazilian defender Daiane accidentally sliced an attempted clearance kick into her own net, Brazil tied it up in the 68th minute on a twice-taken penalty kick. The penalty was awarded when defender Rachel Buehler was judged to have fouled Marta as both went for the ball. Buehler was ejected, and the U.S played shorthanded the rest of the way.
Cristiane's initial effort was saved by U.S. goalkeeper Solo, but the referee spotted a U.S. player encroaching into the penalty area and ordered the kick retaken.
Marta made no mistake with the second effort and tied the score. It remained that way until the end of regulation and the teams headed into 30 minutes of extra time.
Two minutes in, Marta scored again, this time off a pass from teammate Maurine. Replays suggested that Maurine might have been offside when the initial pass was made to her, but there was no call from the officials.
Twice during extra time, American players were taken down in the Brazil penalty area, first Amy LePeilbet and then Alex Morgan, but no calls were made.
Eventually, with the final whistle about to sound, Wambach produced the goal that saved it all for the U.S. and kept the dream alive.
For a full report on both of Sunday's quarterfinal matches, please see latimes.com/sports/soccer/ later on Sunday.
-- Grahame L. Jones
Photo: American striker Abby Wambach scores with a header past Brazil goalkeeper Andreia and defender Daiane at Rudolf Harbig Stadium in Dresden, Germany, on Sunday. Credit: Hannibal Hanschke / EPA