July 11, 2011 in Sports

U.S. goalkeeper Solo shines vs. Brazil

Marta scores three times, but U.S. is still playing
Raf Casert Associated Press
 
Associated Press photo

U.S. goalkeeper Hope Solo deflects a penalty shot during the Americans’ quarterfinal win over Brazil.
(Full-size photo)

DRESDEN, Germany – The world’s best player went up against the best goalkeeper and scored three times. So guess who won?

The goalkeeper, U.S. goalkeeper Hope Solo – hands down.

Despite scoring twice during play and once in the penalty shootout, Brazil’s superstar Marta lost a shot at the World Cup and the goodwill of the fans in one of the most memorable women’s soccer matches ever played.

And after the quarterfinal shootout victory of the United States over Brazil after the teams tied 2-2, Solo was given the player of the match award by the world’s biggest experts – the FIFA technicians. No questions asked.

In the end, Solo had the final piece of evidence that turned this most amazing of matches. When Brazil’s Daiane lined up for her penalty, Solo stretched out to her right and batted it away, reading the shot perfectly, and having the reaction speed to get there.

In the statistics list of nine penalty shots only one had “saved” and it was Solo’s. It gave the U.S. a 5-3 shootout win. Marta, of course, got hers, but it didn’t matter again.

“Hope, amazing. She’s the best goalkeeper in the world,” captain Christie Rampone said. “We kept saying, ‘Hope’s gonna get one. Hope’s gonna get one. We just have to finish them off.’ ”

Solo had the sellout crowd of 25,598 eating out of her gloved hands.

The heat was coming off the pitch where minute by minute, all 122 of them, tension rose to the climatic shootout.

Marta found it hard to deal with and she turned into the goat of the match because constant complaining made her stand out as much as her superb talent when she set up and converted Brazil’s penalty to tie the match in the 65th minute and seemingly secured the match with a delicate volley in the 92nd minute.

“They love me,” she said in a remark dripping with irony. Even the referee had to intervene, giving her a yellow card for protesting on the verge of half time.

“We will leave with our heads high,” she said.

But leave she will, two games ahead of the final, as Brazil’s women again miss out on winning the big one. Brazil finished second in the last World Cup and last two Olympics.

With two goals Sunday, Marta became World Cup scoring leader with 14 overall, tying 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.

“Yes, she got the goal. It happens I guess,” Solo said. “I don’t think she was too much of a threat.”

Emotions may get in the way of judgment.

Solo has gotten into the way of Marta before. The Brazilian was on the verge of scoring the goal that would give Brazil’s women the Olympic gold medal in Beijing. Solo stopped that shot with her most memorable save – before today.

Sunday’s World Cup quarterfinals was their first match since that 2008 Olympic final, and again, Solo came out on top. Instead of the cheers for Solo, a lasting memory from Germany for Marta will be the endless whistling and booing.

“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. “Especially with Solo in goal.”

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