Dresden bid farewell to the FIFA Women's World Cup 2011™ in style on Sunday with a classic bout between two powerhouses of women's football. The Rudolf Harbig Stadion provided a fitting backdrop as USA and Brazil, ranked first and third in the FIFA/Coca-Cola World Rankings respectively, fought it out for a place in the last four.
The quarter-final more than lived up to expectations, with the Americans ultimately requiring a penalty shoot-out to defeat their South American rivals following a 2-2 draw after extra time. The players were treated to a rousing reception by the 26,000 or so in the stands, not to mention the thousands more who made their way to the Dresden Fan Mile, located at the Georg Arnhold Swimming Baths just next door.
In total, seven of the 16 participating FIFA Women's World Cup 2011 teams appeared in the Saxony state capital over four matches: USA 2-0 Korea DPR, New Zealand 1-2 England and Canada 0-1 Nigeria in the group stages and of course the quarter-final between USA and Brazil.
*Fans from far and wide
*Susi from Radebeul and Inga from Dresden fully immersed themselves in the party atmosphere – no wonder considering Susi is an official DFB referee and Inga a keen player. Each of them agreed that the FIFA Women's World Cup inspires people of all ages, whether they had previously taken an interest in women's football or not.
Though the red, gold and black of Germany dominated the Fan Mile landscape, hundreds of international guests also turned out to support their teams and enjoy the vibrant and diverse culture Dresden has to offer.
Christian, Teresa, Filippa and Evelina all travelled from Sweden to watch Thomas Dennerby's side in action on the biggest stage, though none of them were counting on the Blagult overcoming the USA in the group decider. Though they ultimately missed out on Sweden's 3-1 quarter-final victory over Australia, the quartet were determined to make the best of their trip by enjoying Japan's clash with hosts Germany alongside a multitude of similarly enthusiastic fans.
*A great atmosphere
*American trio Tina, Savannah and Beth came to the Fan Mile to get a closer look at reigning champions Germany. All three were huge women's football supporters and were lucky enough to have tickets for the clash between Brazil and USA the following day. Savannah is herself a goalkeeper for South Carolina FC and described current USA No1 Hope Solo as her idol – with good reason, judging by the American's quarter-final heroics against Brazil.
Keiko, who has been living in Germany for the past year but was attending his first-ever Public Viewing event, was particularly impressed by the Japan, though her partner Gerald was firmly in the Germany camp. Steve (from Dresden) also joined in the Fan Mile in the hope of witnessing the hosts' safe progression into the last four: "I think women's football is great, even if it is a little slower than the men's game."
However, it was Keiko who was celebrating by the end of the evening as Japan ousted Germany 1-0 after extra time following a tensely-fought affair. In spite of defeat, many home fans remained on the Fan Mile afterwards to soak up the atmosphere and give the hosts a worthy send-off along with fans from all corners of the globe.
Though the action is over in Dresden and Germany are no longer involved, the football party will continue at least until Sunday with two semi-finals, the match for third place and of course the Final still to look forward to. Indeed, there is still plenty of time for visitors to enjoy 'THE BEAUTIFUL SIDE OF 20ELEVEN' in Dresden.