Solo wins battle with Marta

The world’s best player went up against the best goalkeeper and

scored three times. So guess who won?

The goalkeeper, U.S. goalkeeper Hope Solo – hands down.

Despite scoring twice during play and once in the penalty

shootout, Brazil’s superstar Marta lost a shot at the World Cup and

the goodwill of the fans in one of the most memorable women’s

soccer matches ever played.

And after the quarterfinal shootout victory of the United States

over Brazil after the teams tied 2-2, Solo was given the player of

the match award by the world’s biggest experts – the FIFA

technicians. No questions asked.

In the end, Solo had the final piece of evidence which turned

this most amazing of matches. When Brazil’s Daiane’s lined up for

her penalty, Solo stretched out to her right and batted it away,

reading the shot perfectly, and having the reaction speed to get

there.

In the statistics list of nine penalty shots only one had

”saved” and it was Solo’s. It gave the U.S. a 5-3 shootout win.

Marta of course, got hers, but it didn’t matter again.

”Hope, amazing. She’s the best goalkeeper in the world,”

captain Christie Rampone said. ”We kept saying, `Hope’s gonna get

one. Hope’s gonna get one. We just have to finish them off’.”

Solo had the sellout crowd of 25,598 eating out of her gloved

hands, a picture of cool on a hot afternoon with a low sun slanting

into the stadium and temperatures reaching 77 degrees.

The heat was coming off the pitch where minute by minute, all

122 of them, tension rose to the climatic shootout.

Marta found it hard to deal with and she turned into the goat of

the match because constant complaining made her stand out as much

as her superb talent when she set up and converted Brazil’s penalty

to tie the match in the 65th minute and seemingly secured the

second with a delicate volley in the 92nd minute.

”They love me,” she said in a remark dripping with irony. Even

the referee had to intervene, giving her a yellow card for

protesting on the verge of half time.

”We will leave with our heads high,” she said.

But leave she will, two games ahead of the final, as Brazil’s

women again miss out on winning the big one. Brazil finished second

in the last World Cup and last two Olympics and this time, Marta

would surely show the way.

With two goals Sunday, Marta became World Cup scoring leader

with 14 overall, tying Germany’s Birgit Prinz on the all-time list.

Marta, though, is just 25, while Prinz effectively retired from the

World Cup with Germany’s loss against Japan on Saturday.

”Yes, she got the goal. It happens I guess,” Solo said. ”I

don’t think she was too much of a threat.”

Emotions may get in the way of judgment.

Solo has gotten into the way of Marta before. The Brazilian was

on the verge of scoring the goal that would give Brazil’s women the

Olympic gold medal in Beijing. Solo stopped that shot with her most

memorable save – before today.

Sunday’s World Cup quarterfinals was their first match since

that 2008 Olympic final, and again, Solo came out on top. Instead

of the cheers for Solo, a lasting memory from Germany for Marta

will be the endless whistling and booing.

”I didn’t understand why there were so many whistles,” Brazil

coach Kleiton Lima said. ”She was a genius as always.”

U.S. coach Pia Sundhage agreed.

”Marta is the best player in the world hands down. However,

this team is better than one player,” she said. ”Especially with

Solo in goal.”