Deep into the match between the USWNT and Brazil in the semifinals of the 2011 Women’s World Cup, all seemed lost. Brazil had scored a goal in extra time, and in the 122nd minute of the match the United States faced a near-impossible task.
When Megan Rapinoe got control of the ball on the left side in those final seconds, she knew this was their last chance. Without a goal on this possession, time would expire and they’d be relegated to the bronze-medal match.
Losses in the semifinals had suddenly become familiar for the team. After their magical run to World Cup gold in 1999, the team had lost in the semis two straight World Cups. Four years earlier, it was this very Brazil team that broke their hearts with a 4-0 thrashing of the Americans.
Seconds away from a third-straight semifinal defeat, and American fans on the edge of their seats, Rapinoe took a pass from Carli Lloyd for one last shot.
“Even when I watch the highlight today I get choked up, because it was so incredible,” Megan’s twin sister, Rachael Rapinoe, a former Team USA player who’s now the CEO of Mendi, told me on the latest episode of the Five Rings To Rule Them All podcast. You can hear her talk about it at about the 29th minute.
“My sister kicks this bomb of a cross from the left side and Abby...”
Abby Wambach had been a part of those two previous semifinal losses. Having joined the USWNT after 1999, she had yet to taste the sweetness of playing in a World Cup final.
What Wambach did with the cross from Rapinoe... well, you’re just going to have to watch to remember what happened next. See if you can watch without getting a tear in your eye: