Last-gasp Wambach goal and PKs see US past Brazil in Women's World Cup

Playing with 10, Americans conjure remarkable win to clinch semis

Women's World Cup, Megan Rapinoe celebrates

Photo Credit: 
(Getty Images)

Controversial officiating, last-second drama, and an unlikely hero: What would a US national team match at the World Cup be without a delicious plot?

The US women, despite playing with 10 players for nearly an hour, advanced to the semifinals of the Women's World Cup after topping Brazil in penalties on Sunday in Dresden, Germany.  

A 122nd-minute goal from striker Abby Wambach leveled the score, 2-2, and sent the match into penalties. The Americans were then perfect from the spot, and goalkeeper Hope Solo made one save to earn the victory. Aly Krieger put away the fifth penalty to seal the win.

The US will now face France in the semifinals on Wednesday.

The win came on the 12th anniversary of the US women's famous shootout win over China in the 1999 World Cup final.

The US had a dream start after an own-goal from Brazil's Daiane gave them the lead in the second minute.

But the game took a massive twist in the 65th minute. Defender Rachel Buehler was shown a red card, after the referee adjudged she had taken down Brazilian star Marta in the area. Replays indicated that Buehler got the ball and both players collided equally.

Regardless, Brazil were handed a penalty. Cristiane fired her shot to the right side, and Solo dove to make the save. But the referee blew for encroachment, though it was unclear whether it was on an American field player or on Solo herself. Replays again indicated that the referee got the call wrong.

On the retake, Marta finished her penalty calmly.

After going down a player, the US defense held strong despite constant pressure from Brazil, and regulation time finished 1-1.

But just two minutes into extra time, the Brazilians took the lead, as Marta found the net again. A cross from Maurine, who appeared offside before collecting the ball, was met by Marta, who flicked the bouncing ball up and over Solo into the far side of the net.

Down a goal and a man, the US seemed to wilt. Brazil continued to control the midfield and had several half-chances to extend their lead.

Then, with seconds to play, second-half substitute Megan Rapinoe curled a cross in from the left side. Brazil goalkeeper Andréia flailed at it and Wambach -- who faced criticism for her lack of scoring in the group stage -- arrived with perfect timing to head the ball into the back of the open net. It was the latest goal in World Cup history.

The penalties were not without their mini-drama. The Americans' first shooter, Shannon Boxx, saw her attempt saved by Andréia; however, as with the earlier incident, the official whistled for a do-over. The Brazilian keeper had clearly left her line too early. On her second attempt, Boxx was successful.

The US then finished all four of their remaining shots, including the fifth and deciding one by Krieger, who was by many accounts the best player on the field for Pia Sundhage's side. Solo, who was famously benched in the 2007 World Cup semifinal in China, stopped the third Brazilian penalty, taken by Daiane.