When I was in high school and met up with friends on a public tennis court, sometimes only three of us would show up. Since there were no cell phones to contact the missing player, we would then either take turns playing each other or, more often, one of us would volunteer to play “American-style”, one-on-two.
I don’t know if that phrase was then or is now in common usage. But my friends and I just took it for granted that Americans play against the odds.
That phrase naturally occurred to me as the American team in the Women’s World Cup battled against Brazil in the quarterfinals on Sunday. Questionable referee calls early in the game forced the U.S. to play one player down for the duration, and allowed Brazil to tie the score on a re-do of a penalty kick.
Then early in extra time, the Brazilian star Marta scored another of her signature goals off the post to take what seemed like the permanent lead. A Brazilian player tried to run out the clock by faking an injury, for which she received a yellow card.
Even in the last minute of stoppage time added on at the end of extra time, in part to compensate for the obvious Brazilian stalling, down one goal and one player, the U.S. team wouldn’t give up. A perfect pass from Megan Rapinoe was amazingly headed into the Brazilian goal by a desperate, leaping Abby Wambach, and incredibly, the score was tied as time ran out.
In penalty kicks, the U.S. goalkeeper Hope Solo managed to block one of the four Brazilian attempts. When Ali Krieger made the last of five successful U.S. penalty kicks, the game was over, and the U.S. had won a stunning, unbelievable, against-the-odds victory, even more memorable than the U.S. World Cup win on penalty kicks against China which happened exactly 12 years to the day earlier in 1999.
To the critics of women’s sports and women’s soccer, and I know from this blog that there are some out there, you really don’t know what you’re missing.
The U.S. advances to play France in the semi-final on Wednesday at noon. Japan plays Sweden in the other semi-final at 3 p.m. The consolation game is on Saturday, and the World Cup final will be on Sunday. All games on ESPN.