U.S. women make World Cup magic; all-star Giants
If you’re watching women’s World Cup soccer tournament in Germany, I hope you witnessed Sunday morning’s United States versus Brazil quarterfinal match because it was one of the best-ever men’s or women’s team-efforts in any sport, and at any level.
It was an epic match that lasted 90 regulation minutes, two 15-minute overtimes and a penalty shootout, and featured the American women overcoming daunting odds and delivering a dramatic and magical ending.
Leading 1-0 early on an own-goal by Brazil, the United States was soon stunned by a red-card that left them with only 10 players for a majority of the game and set up a penalty shot by the South Americans that was repelled on an outstanding goal-saving play by U.S. star-keeper Hope Solo.
But a beyond-questionable call by the referee, who didn’t keep a good grip on the match, negated Solo’s super save and turned into a penalty shot replay and a controversial goal by the top woman-player in the world, Marta, who later looked to break the Americans hearts with a brilliant ball-control goal in overtime.
Trailing 2-1 in the waning minutes of the quarterfinal, and on the verge of its earliest World Cup exit ever, the U.S. women benefited from a bad-karma fake-injury flop by a Brazil player, who was carried off the field, but quickly returned to the jeers of the spectators. But extra time was added, which turned out to lead to Brazil’s downfall.
With refueled energy, the U.S. women, who proved throughout the match to be the best-conditioned team in the game, and possibly the whole tourney, got an excellent long-pass from Megan Rapinoe to the front of the goal and teammate Abby Wambach headed in for the thrilling and unbelievable equalizer in the extra 122nd minute.
Then in the penalty shoot-out, Solo came up with the key save on Brazil’s third of five penalty shots and the U.S. had outsted Brazil and will now face France in one of two semifinals at 8:30 a.m. tomorrow morning, Wednesday, July 16, on ESPN.
As I’ve done every year for most of my life, I’ll be watching the annual Major League Baseball all-star game tonight in Arizona – though I wish the state didn’t get the privilege of hosting the classic because of its outrageous immigrant law – and for me and many San Francisco Giants fans, we will get some extra-special enjoyment.
Along with manager Bruce Bochy and his coaching staff, the World Series champion San Francisco Giants will have five players on the National League’s all-star roster, which is the most Giant all-stars since 1966, when six made the midseason classic.
Along with pitchers Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Brian Wilson – all repeat all-stars – and should-be comeback player of the year Ryan Vogelsong, position-player Pablo “Panda” Sandoval became an all-star on Sunday and will be joining his Giant teammates and coaches in tonight’s battle against the American League stars.
As I’ve stated before, I’m strictly a National League fan who grew up through the 1960s and ’70s watching the NL defeat the AL in the all-star game every year, and even twice a season when there was double the mid-season classic.
The tide definitely changed since then and the National League’s win last year was its first victory over the American League since the last millineum.
The current state of the Major League’s All-Star rivalry between the two leagues has been desperately made significant by often-confused commissioner Bud Selig, with the winner getting World Series home-field advantage.
Whether this development is good or bad will continue to be debated, along with the dreadful designated hitter. But for this year, the “winner gets home-field advantage” scenario will definitely give the all-star Giants some extra motivation, because last year’s National League win was San Francisco’s gain.