THE AMERICANS are moving on to the semifinals after one of the most riveting games in the history of the Women's World Cup, beating Brazil 5-3 on penalty kicks after a 2-2 draw in extra time.
Abby Wambach scored an equalizer in the 122nd minute, and goalkeeper Hope Solo denied the Brazilians in the shootout.
"I'm at a loss and I literally cannot believe what just happened," Wambach said.
For Brazil, it is yet another disappointment at a major tournament. And this one is sure to sting more than any of the others because Marta seemed to have it won for the Brazilians yesterday in Dresden, scoring her second goal of the game in the second minute of extra time for the 2-1 lead that would have sent the Americans to their earliest World Cup exit ever. But Brazilian defender Erika stalled when she went down on a tackle, and the dilly-dallying added 3 minutes of stoppage time to the game.
That was the time Wambach and the Americans needed, after pushing themselves to the limit while playing a woman short from the 66th minute on.
Two minutes into stoppage time, Megan Rapinoe, of the Independence, sent a perfect cross from the left side that goalkeeper Andreia didn't come close to getting her hands on. Wambach, at 5-11 one of the best players in the world in the air, made contact and with one furious whip of her head, buried it in the near side of the net.
"I took a touch and smoked it," Rapinoe said. "I don't think I've ever hit a cross with my left foot that well. And then that beast in the air got ahold of it."
Wambach let out a primal scream and slid into the corner, pumping her fists, and was quickly mobbed by her teammates. It was the latest goal in World Cup history.
"Not for one second," Wambach said when asked if she ever felt the Americans were beaten. "I kept saying, all it takes is one chance. I kept holding up one finger to the girls."
The Americans, shooting first, made their first three penalty kicks only to have Cristiane and Marta match the first two. But then it was Daiane's turn - who'd given the United States a 1-0 lead with an own goal in the second minute of the game. She took a hard shot, but Solo stretched out and batted it away.
Though the United States still had to convert two more, the celebration was starting. After Rapinoe smoked the net with a blast and Ali Krieger converted hers, the Americans raced onto the field, their joy only matched by the pro-American crowd of 25,598 in Rudolf-Harbig-Stadion.
"I don't think I was really thinking," Krieger said. "I just stepped up to the plate. I was confident, knew my place, and it worked."
"There is something special about this group. That energy, that vibe," Solo said. "Even in overtime, you felt something was going to happen. It is a special moment for me and for this team."
The USA now moves on to Wednesday's semifinals to play France, which had eliminated England on penalty kicks Saturday.
While the Americans partied, Marta and the Brazilians could only watch in stunned silence. Brazil has never won a major tournament; it lost to the Americans in two Olympic gold-medal games, and to Germany in the 2007 World Cup final.
Brazil's lone consolation was that Marta's goals, the 13th and 14th of her career, tied her with Germany's Birgit Prinz atop the all-time World Cup scoring list.
Marta's first goal came after she made a dangerous run into the box in the 65th, beating two U.S. defenders and coming practically nose-to-nose with Solo before Rachel Buehler dragged her down. Referee Jacqui Melksham of Australia not only ruled it a penalty but a red card on Buehler as well. Cristiane took the kick, but Solo batted it away.
But Melksham ordered the penalty retaken and gave Solo a yellow card, apparently ruling that the American had left her line; replays clearly showed she had not.
As the crowd jeered and whistled Marta scored on the retake. As she walked away from the spot, Marta slapped her right arm and shouted at the crowd.
"The last 3 hours of my life have been some of the most by far emotionally up-and-down moments I've ever experienced," Wambach said. "It took every single player on the team to win that game."
In another quarterfinal: