Within seconds of converting the winning penalty in her side's dramatic 5-3 shoot-out victory (2-2 aet) over Brazil in Sunday's FIFA Women's World Cup 2011™ quarter-final, USA defender Ali Krieger was bundled to the ground by her ecstatic team-mates.
"I actually didn't think about it that much when I walked up to take the kick," said the 26-year-old once she got a moment to draw breath."I just did what we'd practised in training. I was confident and I shut out everything around me. Everyone struck the ball perfectly. I told myself I had to do the same and it worked. It's a dream come true for me. I'm not the best penalty-taker - I guess that's why I play at the back."
Were it not for a last-gasp equaliser from Abby Wambach in the dying seconds of extra time, the Stars and Stripes would have been heading out of the tournament. As it transpired, the 31-year-old striker headed in Megan Rapinoe's inch-perfect cross to level the scores at 2-2 and force the tie into a nerve-wracking spot-kick lottery.
"The pass from Rapinoe must have been the best of the entire tournament," said Wambach. "I'm delighted with the goal because it kept us in the game. By the end we were just doing anything to get the ball into the box. The pass was top-class and thankfully I didn't miss it. I literally can't believe what happened. It's probably the most emotional moment of my life."
Krieger and Wambach were not the only heroes for the US women on Sunday evening. Goalkeeper Hope Solo kept her side in the contest with a string of quality saves, parrying one penalty (which had to be retaken) during normal time and another in the shoot-out to deservedly claim the Player of the Match award.
"Facing two different penalty takers during normal time threw me a bit for the shoot-out," said Solo. "I knew in my head roughly how they moved and I thought they'd be confident enough to try the same again. Once I had those two out of the way, I was able to clear my thoughts and read the other takers."
"I think I benefitted from not facing their third taker during normal time," added the USA No1, who can now look forward to what promises to be another thrilling encounter against France in Wednesday's semi-final in Monchengladbach.