A goal for the ages

10 Jul 2021

  • On this day in 2011, the USA and Brazil met in a scintillating FIFA Women’s World Cup quarter-final

  • A header from Abby Wambach (120’+2) helped the Stars and Stripes take the match to penalties

  • "The ball flew through the air – it seemed to hang there forever – and then I saw Abby“

"I saw Megan Rapinoe out on the left; she looked up and played a cross into the penalty area, and I thought: ‘Where’s Abby, where’s Abby?’ There she was, in the box, right where she should be. The ball flew through the air – it seemed to hang there forever – and then I saw Abby, who climbed higher than anyone else and buried the ball in the back of the net. It was absolutely fantastic. That goal changed my life," said Pia Sundhage, looking back on a very special moment that she will remember forever.

That moment in Dresden was etched in football’s history books exactly ten years ago today. USA initially took the lead in their FIFA Women’s World Cup quarter-final against Brazil, only for the match to take a dramatic turn as Rachel Buehler was shown a red card for fouling Marta in her own penalty area. Although Hope Solo saved Cristiane’s first penalty attempt, the referee ordered the spot-kick to be retaken.

This time Marta stepped up with nerves of steel to level the match at 1-1. When the Seleção‘s star player put her side ahead in the second minute of extra time, it seemed as though coach Pia Sundhage and the USA – who, like Brazil, will be battling it out for a medal at the Women’s Olympic Football Tournament this summer – were heading for the exit. Enter Abby Wambach.

The Americans are also fantastic when it comes to playing under pressure, and they’ve had high expectations ever since they won the first World Cup. They never give up. You could call it the American attitude. If you believe in something then it could turn into something good.”

Pia Sundhage

In the 121st minute, with extra time all but over and the seconds ticking down to the final whistle, USA mounted a final attack in front of 25,598 fans at Dresden’s Rudolf-Harbig Stadium. Midfielder Megan Rapinoe received a pass, took a touch on the left wing and spotted Wambach making a run toward the far post.

Rapinoe hit a deep, left-footed cross while Wambach settled at the edge of the six-yard box, out-jumped Brazilian goalkeeper Andreia and unleashed a pummelling header into the back of the net in the 122nd minute.

DRESDEN, GERMANY - JULY 10: Abby Wambach of USA celebrates after scoring her team's equalizing goal during the FIFA Women's World Cup 2011 Quarter Final match between Brazil and USA at Rudolf-Harbig-Stadion on July 10, 2011 in Dresden, Germany. (Photo by Martin Rose/Getty Images)

FIFA Women's World Cup Germany 2011

Abby Wambach: I prepared for that moment my whole life

6 Jun 2015

The rest is history. Wambach’s strike took the game to a penalty shootout, where Solo starred as she saved Daiane’s spot-kick, while all five US penalty-takers found the target to seal a 5-3 triumph for the Stars and Stripes. 

Although her team eventually lost to Japan in the Final, Wambach’s goal against Brazil – voted the best ever scored at a Women’s World Cup in a 2015 poll – is and will always be an indelible memory in tournament history.

We had every reason to give up. I knew that if I hit it right, it would hit the back of the net. That was my moment. For whatever reason, it seemed as if I’d been preparing for it my whole life. Even though we didn’t win the World Cup, that moment allowed us to come home as champions. One of the best moments I’ve ever had as an athlete.

Abby Wambach