THE DAY REPLAYED – The two quarter-finals of the FIFA Women’s World Cup Germany 2011™ played on Sunday proved to be a real test of nerves for players and fans alike. After both France and Japan needed an additional 30 minutes to qualify on Saturday, it was the turn of USA to draw out the suspense by taking their game against Brazil into extra time. And just like Les Bleues, their upcoming semi-final opponents, the North Americans required penalty kicks to see off their resolute rivals.
Again inspired by an impressive Marta, Brazil may look back with regret on this loss, during which they contrived to score an own goal in the opening minutes, fail to properly capitalise on a second-half numerical advantage, and concede an equaliser in the final seconds of extra time.
Earlier on in the day, Sweden saw off Australia to qualify for the last four in more straightforward circumstances, as their challengers were unable to live up to their status of dark horses. Under a scorching afternoon sun, the Scandinavians put on a display of composure and maturity, scoring from sharp, well-constructed moves, and taking full advantage of some of the errors present in the inexperienced Australians’ play.
The Matildas can nevertheless be proud of what they have achieved, recording double the number of victories at this year’s event than they had in all of their previous FIFA Women’s World Cup appearances put together. Their one previous win had come four years ago at China 2007, where they also fell at the quarter-final stage.
Sweden 3-1 Australia
Brazil 2-2 USA (aet, USA win 5-3 on penalties)
Goal of the day
Brazil-USA, Abby Wambach 120+2'
Deep in injury time of extra time, the Americans, with just ten players and trailing 2-1 following Marta’s second goal of the match, looked to be down and out. But with virtually the last kick of the ball, Megan Rapinoe hoisted a deep cross into the box that appeared to be heading straight into the gloves of Andrea in the Brazil goal. The Canarinhas' keeper miscalculated her dive, however, missing the ball by the slightest of margins and allowing Abby Wambach to thump a header into the back of the net for her second goal of the competition. The unlikely equaliser saved the United States from defeat and eventually propelled them into the semi-finals, with the help of a penalty shootout.
The Australians were twice found guilty of defensive naivety in their quarter-final clash today. Knocking the ball back to the goalkeeper is a dangerous game to play when faced with a forward with the instincts of Sweden’s Lotta Schelin. When the Lyon striker failed to punish Collette McCallum’s error early on in the match, this should perhaps have served as a warning for the Antipodean side. The second time around the Swede would make no mistake, pouncing on Kim Carroll’s wayward pass to round the keeper and score her country’s third goal of the day.
The 28th meeting between Brazil and USA was an amazing encounter that swung this way and that. It was also a match that saw two new FIFA Women’s World Cup records set. The first came right at the start when, with under two minutes on the clock, the unfortunate Daiane scored the quickest own goal in the history of the tournament. The second now belongs to Abby Wambach who, with an equaliser in the 122nd minute of the game, scored the latest goal the event has ever seen.
14 – The number of FIFA Women’s World Cup goals scored by Brazil star Marta, whose two quarter-final strikes against USA saw her draw level with Birgit Prinz’s all-time tournament record. This achievement may offer the South American some measure of consolation, following her team’s dramatic defeat by USA. A little further down the list on 11, Abby Wambach would appear to be the only player in with a possibility of equalling or surpassing this total at Germany 2011.
“Things just fell into place for my goal. It was a bit of a relief for me, because Sweden’s first two goals stemmed from moves down my side, so I kind of owed it to my team-mates. But what an incredible feeling it was to score, especially when you play at the back and you don’t get that many shooting chances,” Ellyse Perry, Australia right-back and scorer of her nation’s goal against Sweden
Wednesday 13 July (semi-finals)
France-USA, Monchengladbach, 18.00 CET
Japan-Sweden, Frankfurt, 20.45 CET
photos Janos Schmidt