Dresden, Germany, Jul 11: The match of the tournament turned into one for the ages Sunday when an own goal, retaken penalties, a sending off, an injury-time equalizer and a penalty shootout win swept the United States past Brazil and into the World Cup semifinals after the teams drew 2-2.
Sweden had less trouble, advancing in regulation after scoring early and convincingly to destroy the hopes of underdog Australia with a 3-1 victory.
Playing for 55 minutes with a woman down, the gritty U.S. team never gave up against two-goal Marta and the Brazilians and got a last-gasp equalizer in extra time from forward Abby Wambach to set up the penalty shootout.
“We never give up,” Wambach said. “We never gave up.”
They won the shootout 5-3, when Alex Krieger slotted the last penalty past Andreia.
In Dresden, superstar Marta turned into the villain of the sellout crowd of crowd of 25,598 after her game was characterized as much by relentless whining as her superb skill. She set up and converted Brazil's penalty to level the match in the 65th minute and seemingly secured the win with a delicate volley in the 92nd minute.
With the United States reduced to 10 players since the penalty, the Americans still kept up the pressure it had used to dominate proceedings since a clumsy own-goal from Daiane in the second minute.
Yet it long looked like they could not make up for the lack of one of their players, and the presence of Marta on the opposition side. But then Wambach came alive with one last desperate attempt, soaring high and heading in the equalizer in the 122nd minute.
“I am so happy it went in,” she said.
With two goals, Marta became the joint-best World Cup scorer with 14 overall, equaling Germany's Birgit Prinz on the all-time list. Marta, though, is just 25, while Prinz effectively retired from the World Cup with Germany's loss against Japan on Saturday.
Wambach and a missed penalty from Daiane made sure Brazil's women still have no major title after finishing second in the last World Cup and last two Olympics.
The crowd increasingly whistled and booed Marta after she started protesting and balking at most decisions.
“I didn't understand why there were so many whistles,” Brazil coach Kleiton Lima said. “She was a genius as always.”
U.S. coach Pia Sundhage agreed.
“Marta is the best player in the world hands down. However, this team is better than one player,” she said.
Australian referee Jacqui Melksham was also in the center of attention, for a string of disputed decisions in the 65th minute.
With dazzling skills, Marta had first outwitted two defenders in the penalty area with a chip over their heads to come eye-to-eye with goalie Hope Solo. As she tried to shoot, Rachel Buehler came back to challenge her, and Melksham not only ruled it a penalty but a red card as well.
To compound the controversy, Solo produced a sterling save off Cristiane's penalty but Melksham ruled it should be retaken. Marta stepped in and scored to give Brazil hope.
There were claims for offside when Marta scored the second goal, and Melksham then waved off a penalty appeal for the Americans in the 106th when Amy Le Peilbet went down.
But she came to the help of the United States when she allowed Shannon Boxx to retake her first penalty of the shootout after it was saved.
The United States will now play France on Wednesday and Sweden meets Japan.
In Augsburg, Lotta Schelin scored one goal and set up another to send Sweden to its first semifinal.
Having set up Therese Sjogran for the opening goal in the 11th minute, Schelin made the match safe in the 52nd to set off the players' traditional Swedish dancing celebrations.
Schelin capitalized on a poor back pass from Kim Carroll, took one touch past goalkeeper Melissa Barbieri before slotting the ball into the unguarded net.
“There is a fantastic atmosphere in our team and we pulled each other through,” said Schelin, the player of the game.
The result means Sweden also qualifies for the London Olympics next year.
“Now we have to concentrate on winning against Japan. We don't have very good memories of playing against them,” Sweden coach Thomas Dennerby said. “Our players will work hard to go one step further.” AP