DRESDEN, Germany — The U.S. women have their quickest turnaround yet at the World Cup, with just two days to prepare for Wednesday's semifinal against France after Sunday's physically and emotionally draining epic against Brazil.
Not only will the Americans, the oldest team in the tournament, play on one fewer day of rest than they've been getting, but France will have had an extra day off.
"It's a big difference, I think," said U.S. midfielder Heather O'Reilly, who played 108 minutes and showed no signs of the strained groin that kept her out of the final group game. "Every hour counts in terms of recovery, but we have a fitness coach here, Dawn Scott, who's really encouraged us even outside the World Cup about recovery strategies. It's part of our culture now."
Down to 10 players for nearly an hour and on the verge of their earliest World Cup exit, the Americans packed an entire tournament's worth of theatrics into 15 minutes by beating Brazil 5-3 on penalties after a 2-2 draw. Abby Wambach tied it with a header in the 122nd minute, the latest goal ever in a World Cup game, women's or men's.
The Americans then buried their penalty kicks and goalkeeper Hope Solo denied the Brazilians again, batting away Daiane's attempt after Cristiane and Marta had converted theirs.
It was the first time in women's World Cup history that a team came back to win after falling behind in extra time. Only Italy (1970 semifinals), Germany (1982 semifinals) and Sweden (1994 quarterfinals) have done it in the men's World Cup.
"I think we're going to do everything possible to get our legs recovered," said Carli Lloyd, one of seven Americans to play the entire game. "Yeah, I'd say it is a little bit of advantage to (France). But they also went into OT (in Saturday's penalty-kick win over England). It's not really about how many days; it's about how fast you can recover. And I think we are going to recover faster, and I think we're going to be ready to go."
The Americans had a light day Monday before their afternoon flight to Dusseldorf. Players who didn't see time in Sunday's game trained while those who did focused on recovery.
"It's just about recovery," said midfielder Shannon Boxx, who also played the entire game Sunday. "Ice bath, pool, making sure we're getting fluids, making sure we're eating right. (Sunday) night, we have our staff walking around making sure, even though we're with our families, 'Did you eat? Did you eat?' Little things like that which you don't really think are too important become very important when you only have two games left."
Women's World Cup
|France 1 (4-3 PKs)||Australia 1|
|2:15 p.m. Wednesday; ESPN|
|England 1||Sweden 3|
|2:45 p.m. Sunday; ESPN|
|U.S. 2 (5-3 PKs)||Japan 1 (OT)|
|U.S.||Third place: 11:30 a.m. Saturday; ESPN2||Japan|
|Brazil 2||Germany 0|