The United States Women's Soccer team has the heart of champions. They were in a knock-out match in the World Cup today, and simply refused to lose, despite playing against powerful rivals from Brazil and facing long odds.
A quick re-cap.
The US was leading 1-0 after a misplayed own goal by Brazil two minutes into the match.
The rest of the first half was played evenly.
In the second half, the Brazilians played with the spirit and creativity that makes them champions. A lighting quick pass, a wonderful touch by the best player in the game, Marta, and two questionable referee calls allowed the Brazilians to tie the game on a penalty kick and disqualified a United States player for the remainder of the match. The US team had to finish with 10 players versus 11.
The US squad fought hard to finish the match even.
In the first period of extra time, the amazing Marta scored a perfect goal. Brazil was up 2-1 with less than fifteen minutes to play and with the advantage of playing with an extra player for nearly an hour.
Julie Foudy, a member of the United States World Cup winning team in 1999, said, "This is the fittest team we have ever put on a field. I think it will pay off."
But with time running out, the Brazilians used every tactic in the book to waste time and dash the hopes of the Americans. It looked bleak as the United States players urged each other on.
But with less than a minute left in the second extra time period, Megan Rapinoe hustled down the left side and lofted a perfect cross toward Brazil's goal. Abby Wambach rose above a crowd of defenders and willed a header into the back of the net. It was the latest goal ever scored in a World Cup match. The improbable goal meant the game would be decided by penalty kicks. The US squad calmly scored on all five shots. US Goal Keeper, Hope Solo, saved one shot. Solo's athletic save meant victory and secured a spot for the US team in a semi-final match against France on Wednesday. In the post match comments, the squad's never-quit spirit was voiced loudly and clearly.
US Coach Pia Sundhage - "I am from Sweden - the American spirit is amazing and contagious. They just believed they were going to win - they believed and they made it happen."
Goal Scorer Abby Wambach: "This is what our country's all about - we will find a way to win; this is what our team is all about - we never quit."
In her interview after the game, Wambach, exhausted, muddy, sweaty and flush with victory said, "It's an honor to represent our country in the World Cup." She stopped her sentence to repress a rush of emotion. I didn't. I was so proud of that team I couldn't stop watching the replays.
All I can say is USA! USA! USA!