The United States Women’s National team has a lot to cheer about—they beat top-ranked Brazil on Sunday in a controversial game to advance to the semifinals of the 2011 Women’s World Cup.
The game, which went into extra time after regulation time ended with a tie score of 1-1, seemed destined to be remembered for divisive refereeing until superstar Abby Wambach scored on a pass from Megan Rupinoe at 122 minutes. Wambach’s goal was the latest goal in Women’s World Cup history.
The United States pulled ahead early on off of an own goal by Brazil’s Daiane, but felt the brunt of controversial calls by the referees.
First, U.S. defender Rachel Beuhler was given a red card for fouling Brazilian superstar Marta in the penalty box. Beuhler’s card meant she could not finish the game and the U.S. would be forced to play with 10 players instead of 11 for the rest of the game.
Marta was allotted a penalty shot for being interfered with during a scoring opportunity.
U.S. goaltender Hope Solo dove to punch away Marta’s shot, but the referees blew the whistle for encroachment, which is defined in FIFA rules as a player from the defending team moving into the penalty box before the shot is taken. Marta was allowed to retake her penalty shot and scored on the second try.
The U.S. held off Brazil for the remainder of the half and regulation time ended in a tie.
Then, a Brazilian goal from Marta early into extra time stirred up even more controversy, as Maurine, the player who passed to Marta, appeared offsides before making the pass. The pass was allowed, and U.S. player Shannon Box, who was motioning to the assistant referee to call the offsides, allowed Marta to step up to the pass and shoot one in over Solo’s head.
With seconds left to play, Megan Rupinoe, who did not start the game but came in as a substitute, sent a long, diagonal ball into the Brazilian penalty box. Abby Wambach, who struggled to score during group play, appeared at the top of the box to head the ball into the back of the net and tie the game.
The game then went to penalty shots, with each team taking five apiece. The United States scored on all five shots, including a second shot given to Shannon Box for the Brazilian goalie leaving the line too early. Solo saved the third Brazilian shot from Daiane. The final score of the penalty shots was 5-3.
Solo, who told FIFA.com she felt “[thrown] a bit” after facing “two different penalty takers during regulation time,” said she cleared her head after the first two shots and was able to “read” Daiane’s shot.
Solo, Wambach and the rest of the U.S. team will play France this Wednesday at 11:30 a.m.