U.S. Beats Brazil In Women's World Cup Game

The U.S. women's soccer team beat Brazil in a stunning penalty-kick shoot-out in the quarterfinals of the women's World Cup Sunday. The U.S. advances to the semifinals.

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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

It's pretty common that at a time of bad news Americans are uplifted and inspired by a sporting event. What was distinctive over the weekend that at a time of bad economic news Americans were inspired by a women's sporting event. It was the Americans come from behind victory over Brazil in World Cup soccer. The final score in that weird soccer way was a two-two tie with the United States winning five-three on penalty kicks, which sounds pretty darn dramatic. NPR sport correspondent Tom Goldman watched the game.

And I understand you had heart trouble, Tom.

TOM GOLDMAN: I did. I had some palpitations. I got over them, but listening to you right now, they're back.

INSKEEP: Well, what made this game so great? The score sounds astonishing. Obviously it can't get any closer. But what made this rise above even that?

GOLDMAN: We don't have time to talk about everything, so we'll focus on the thing that'll be replayed over and over and is being replayed over and over. It's the end of the game.

The U.S. was trailing 2-1 down to the last minute of the second overtime. Meaning the U.S. was a minute away from getting dumped out of the tournament. So the Americans are also down a player after one of their starters got ejected for committing a foul.

Then midfielder Megan Rapinoe on the run launches a high arcing pass from the left side of the field. The ball came down just out of reach of the Brazilian goalkeeper full extended. Abby Wambach, the veteran star forward for the U.S., jumped high, snapped in a header for a tying goal. Stunning play.

And then they go into this penalty kick shootout. The fired up U.S. made all five of its penalty kicks. The American goalkeeper Hope Solo, a great goalkeeper, came up with a big diving save on one of the Brazilian penalty kicks. U.S.A. wins.

INSKEEP: Which explains why the Twitter-verse and everything else across the country seemed to be lighting up with excitement about this game.

GOLDMAN: Oh, my goodness. I especially loved some of the comments from a live Web chat during the game on SportsIllustrated.com. One said, Awesome, the guy down the hall in my barracks in Afghanistan lets out a huge scream with each U.S. goal or save just before I see the posts on here.

Another said, Cheers in Rwanda for U.S.A. Then this one: I'm now an official women's soccer fan period.

And, Steve, there was this interesting comment on ESPN from U.S. coach Pia Sundhage, an obvious insider with this team, but here sounding like an outsider looking on in awe.

Ms. PIA SUNDHAGE (Coach, U.S. Women's National Soccer Team): I come from Sweden. I got opportunity to coach this wonderful team. And somebody's writing this book. And it's something about the American attitude and find a way to win. Unbelievable.

INSKEEP: That's the U.S.A. coach Pia Sundhage. And, Tom, her team found a way to win in spite of some calls that went against them.

GOLDMAN: Yeah. There was a lot of bad officiating. It's safe to say the head referee blew several key calls. The biggest one was when the ref kicked out U.S.A. defender Rachel Buehler for fouling Brazilian star Marta in front of the U.S. goal.

Now, it might've been a foul. Did not seem to warrant a red card, though. And then on Brazil's ensuing penalty kick, which Hope Solo blocked, the referee ordered a re-kick because either Solo moved before the kick or a U.S. player ran toward the goal too soon. FIFA, the international governing body, said Solo moved forward off the goal line, but the consensus was if she did it wasn't really anymore than any goalkeeper does.

The Brazilian's scored on their second try. And that really turned the crowd against the Brazilians for the rest of the game.

INSKEEP: Hmm. In any case, though, the calls that went against the U.S. did not stop the U.S. from victory. So what's next here?

GOLDMAN: What's next is the semifinals against France on Wednesday. And then if they win that, and they certainly do seem like a team of destiny right now, they will play the winner of the Japan versus Sweden semifinal. And the U.S. may win its first women's World Cup since 1999.

INSKEEP: NPR's sports correspondent of destiny Tom Goldman.

Tom, thanks very much.

GOLDMAN: You're welcome.

(Soundbite of music)

INSKEEP: This is NPR News.

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