The Women’s World Cup is headed to the semifinals, with the American side scoring a dramatic, short-handed win over Brazil in Dresden Sunday to join France, Sweden and Japan as the last teams standing. Among the American heroes Sunday was former 1. FFC Frankfurt midfielder Ali Krieger .
Brasil 2(3) – 2 (5) USA
Krieger carried the U.S. to the semifinals of the Women’s World Cup by converting the last penalty kick to defeat Brazil after playing to a 2-2 draw after 120 minutes. The U.S. will play France Wednesday at 12:00 pm ET, while the other semi-finalists, Sweden and Japan, kick off Wednesday at 2:45 pm ET.
The match was an instant classic. The Americans took the lead very early, as Brazil’s Daiane bundled an own goal from a low cross from Shannon Boxx in the 2nd minute of play. The Americans held the lead for more than an hour, until Brasil’s superstar, Marta drew a controversial redcard from American defender Rachel Buehler as the Brazilian charged towards goal. Controversy continued as Hope Solo denied the resulting penalty kick by Cristiane, but American jubilation turned to anger quickly as the referee awarded a second penalty kick as Solo was judged to leave her line prematurely. Marta stepped up and successfully converted, knotting the score.
The Americans stayed in the game, even one player down, and took the game into extra time, where Brasil would seem to have a tremendous advantage, being less fatigued from playing a man up. And indeed, Marta netted the go ahead goal in the first two minutes, but the Americans doggedly kept pushing, even as time was fading away. The American women made splendid use of the three minutes of stoppage time added on after 120 minutes, with California midfielder Megan Rapinoe lofting in a cross from the left flank that was brilliantly met by Abby Wambach, who tied the game with her technically-perfect header.
The game went to penalties, with both sides converting until the hard-luck Daiane’s attempt was denied by a diving Solo. With the chance to ice the game for her team, all eyes were on Ali Krieger, who’d played all 120 minutes. Krieger, who has spent the last four seasons with the German Cup winning 1. FFC Frankfurt side, coolly slotted to the goalkeeper’s right to advance the U.S. as the joyful Americans celebrated their unexpected win.
Although German fans are rightfully disappointed in their national team’s elimination from the Cup at the hands of the Japanese, perhaps they can focus their attention on the Americans and Krieger. The 26 year-old native of Alexandria, Virginia did not renew her contract with Frankfurt, opting to concentrate making the U.S. World Cup and Olympic squads by being in the U.S. Still, she was an integral part of the highly successful 1. FFC Frankfurt club, which won the triple in 2008 featuring eight German national team players and was women’s Bundesliga runner up this season to archrivals 1. FFC Turbine Potsdam.
Her decision to leave Frankfurt was not one taken lightly. “I wanted to give myself the full chance to play in a World Cup and an Olympics and make sure nothing was standing in my way to achieve these goals,” said Krieger, who added that her German teammates are excited to come visit her in the USA at some point. “I wanted to look back with no regrets, saying I should have done this or that. The toughest part is my life outside of soccer. That is really tough to leave. I’ve built a home for myself, learned a new culture, made a lot of new friends, and Germany was where all my stuff was. I came with two bags and I had to pack up a whole life.”
The former Penn State All-American learned quite a bit in her stay with Frankfurt. “I’m a lot tougher now than when I left for Europe,” said Krieger. “I think with the culture in Germany outside of football, you are forced to be a little more direct and not take things so personally. I really had to adjust to that. At first I was really offended sometimes, but to them it was nothing. It’s just the way the culture is. They are honest, direct, punctual people.” Krieger also added that “I play a lot faster, I think quicker and I was forced to change my style because in Germany, you get yelled at pretty quickly if you take too many touches on the ball. I didn’t want to get yelled at anymore, so I figured I’d better take quicker touches and maybe they would start liking me more. So I started playing like them and that worked out well for me.”
Playing with such a talented side at Frankfurt also helped her development. “We were stacked and it’s so much fun to play with good players all the time, day and day out,” said Krieger. “It’s hard not to do well. The support from the management and the club itself is tremendous. I have a lot of loyalty to Frankfurt. They supported me for the last four years, I started my professional career there and each year it has gotten better for me.”
Krieger does not rule out a return to Germany following the 2012 Olympics. She played regularly for Frankfurt over her four years, featuring in 43 league matches when not sidelined by injury or away on national team duty. And again she is focused on playing in Germany, but this time to bring home a championship for the U.S. team that hasn’t won the Women’s World Cup since 1999.
Ali Krieger quotes from U.S. Women’s national team site.