DRESDEN, Germany — The Women's World Cup quarterfinal between the United States and Brazil on Sunday took enough twists and turns to fill an entire tournament.
If an early own goal, a controversial ejection and a retaken penalty kick were not enough, there was a go-ahead strike in extra time by Marta, the Brazilian superstar, and a last-ditch equalizer by Abby Wambach, the Americans' bruising forward.
One last act of spellbinding theater awaited — and Hope Solo and Ali Krieger embraced the spotlight.
Solo made a diving save in a penalty kick tiebreaker and Krieger capped a flawless performance by the Americans in the shootout by tucking her attempt into the lower left for a 5-3 advantage and the win. That followed a 2-2 tie after 120 minutes of regulation and overtime.
"I'm at a loss and I literally cannot believe what just happened," said Wambach, a former standout at Florida.
The victory avenged a 4-0 loss to Brazil in the 2007 World Cup semifinals and came exactly 12 years after the United States prevailed in a tiebreaker against China to win the championship.
The Americans went ahead 74 seconds into the match on an own goal, the first blemish against Brazil in four matches in the tournament. Shannon Boxx crossed the ball to the 6-yard box, where Brazilian defender Daiane deflected it into her own net.
Midway through the second half, Brazil pulled even on a chaotic sequence. Australian referee Jacqui Melksham red-carded U.S. defender Rachel Buehler for taking down Marta in the box. That resulted in a penalty kick and left the Americans short-handed.
Solo stopped Cristiane's attempt, but as the goalkeeper celebrated, Melksham ordered a rekick. Television replays showed a U.S. player entering the box before the kick, the apparent reason for the redo.
Marta made the second try easily.
A five-time FIFA player of the year, Marta struck again on a deft one-touch volley to the far post two minutes into extra time. Brazil led 2-1 on the scoreboard and 11-10 in personnel. Game over?
"Not for one second," Wambach said. "I kept saying, all it takes is one chance. I kept holding up one finger to the girls."
"Sometimes we play better when we're down," Solo said. "We never like things easy."
For the rest of overtime, the Americans kept the ball in Brazilian territory. Three minutes of added time — thanks in large measure to Brazil's time-wasting tactics — tacked to the end gave them their chance.
Midfielder Megan Rapinoe crossed to the 5-foot-11 Wambach, whose unstoppable header inspired thunderous cheers from the soldout crowd of 25,598 at Rudolf-Harbig Stadium.
"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 a hold of it."
In PKs, Solo fully extended to her right to block Daiane's shot, Brazil's third, and Krieger, who plays professionally in Germany, clinched it.
"There's something about the American attitude," that kept the team going, said U.S. coach Pia Sundhage, a native Swede. "Right now, I'm the happiest person on earth."
The Americans advanced to face France, a first-time semifinalist, on Wednesday in Moenchengladbach.
SWEDEN 3, AUSTRALIA 1: In Augsburg, forward Lotta Schelin scored one goal and set up another to send Sweden to the semifinals. The Swedes, the only unbeaten team left in the tournament, face Japan on Wednesday in Frankfurt.
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. July 17; 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|