American striker Abby Wambach scores with a header past Brazil goalkeeper… (Hannibal Hanschke / EPA )
The semifinal field is set and the French are quivering.
Well, that might be a little presumptuous, but after what the U.S. achieved Sunday in advancing to the last four of the Women's World Cup in Germany, any future opponent would be foolish not to be a little nervous.
Trailing, 2-1, two minutes into injury time at the end of extra time, the U.S. somehow found a way to tie the score, via an Abby Wambach headed goal, and then went on to knock Brazil out of the tournament, 5-3 on penalty kicks, in the quarterfinals in Dresden.
It was a game that left the Rudolf-Harbig Stadium crowd of 25,598 emotionally drained, and Wambach too. This one had everything.
"To be honest, I literally can't believe that just happened," Wambach said. "The last three hours of my life have been by far some of the most emotionally up and down moments I've ever experienced."
Goalkeeper Hope Solo's emotions also sank and soared.
"I didn't know if we were going to pull it out at the end," she said. "It started to look grim, but you felt the energy."
That energy produced the tying goal in the 122nd minute and the subsequent five-for-five performance on penalty kicks and put the U.S. into Wednesday's first semifinal, in Moenchengladbach, against perhaps-not-so-quivery France.
The second semifinal will feature Japan against Sweden, which rolled over Australia, 3-1, on Sunday in front of 24,605 in Augsburg.
France, like the U.S., needed extra time and penalty kicks before overcoming England in its quarterfinal. Before Sunday's game, the Americans might have relished playing a possibly exhausted French team. Now, they are possibly in the same boat themselves, and much will depend on who can regenerate faster and better.
Brazil was up against the wall almost from the outset after defender Daiane, trying to clear a cross by Shannon Boxx out of danger but, with Wambach bearing down on her, contrived to slice the ball into her own net.
Only two minutes had elapsed and the U.S. was ahead, but the Brazilians gradually worked their way back into the match, which had more than a few curious calls and non-calls by Australian referee Jacqui Melksham and her assistants.
One of them involved U.S. midfielder Carli Lloyd, who should have been sent off with a second yellow card after a hand ball infraction, but wasn't.
Another came midway through the second half when U.S. defender Rachel Buehler collided with Brazil's Marta while both were going for a loose ball in the U.S. penalty area.
Buehler was whistled for a foul and red-carded, her expulsion leaving the U.S. to play the remaining 52 minutes of regulation and extra time down a player.
On the resulting penalty kick, Cristiane's effort was saved by U.S. goalkeeper Hope Solo, but referee Melksham ruled that a U.S. player had encroached into the area and ordered the kick retaken.
Marta stepped up and beat Solo to tie the score at 1-1.
It stayed that way to the end, forcing 30 minutes of extra time. Two minutes into the 30, Marta scored her second goal, this one worthy of her status as five-time world player of the year, but nonetheless benefiting from another bad non-call. Maurine, who provided Marta with the pass, appeared offside but wasn't flagged.
The Brazilians still led two minutes into injury time at the end of extra time when Megan Rapinoe floated a cross into the area and Wambach powered the ball into the net to improbably knot the score at 2-2.
Penalty kicks followed. The U.S. made all five of its shots but Brazil made only three, Solo saving Daiane's shot.
For the U.S., jubilation. For Brazil, desolation.
"Our team may be a little more creative, but we just couldn't impose ourselves today," said Brazil Coach Kleiton Lima.
Solo summed up the U.S. team's feelings.
"Even when we were a player down and a goal behind in extra time, you sensed that something was going to happen," she said. "The team kept fighting."
Pia Sundhage, the U.S. coach, was left almost speechless.
"I have no words," she said. "Phenomenal. The goal and then the PKs. Someone is writing this book. There is something about the American attitude to find a way to win. Unbelievable."
Jones reported from Ross-on-Wye, England