8:45 p.m., Saturday: Germany, the host and two-time defending World Cup champion, plays Japan in a quarterfinal matchup. With the tragedy that struck the country four months ago, Japan is the sentimental favorite at this World Cup. But it is safe to say, outside of Japan, maybe one in a million would have thought Japan could pull off a win. Apparently, that memo never made it to the Japanese team. Sorry to do this to you, but Dumb and Dumber's fitting line comes to mind: "Soooooo … you're saying I have a chance." Japan pulls off the stunner in extra time and a sold-out stadium in Wolfsburg turns suddenly somber. Japan's beautiful possession game combined with pride and courage secured the much-deserved win. An incredible game to call and one where I never felt Germany had the spark to win.
4 a.m., Sunday morning: Arrival time at Dresden Hotel for Team ROJO (our commentary team of Ian Darke and me) after our four-hour bus ride post-game from Wolfsburg. (Adele's "21" was on continuous play, so we must have heard it at least 20 times. Note to self: Next time get a bus with an iPod connection.)
5:30 p.m., Sunday: USA v. Brazil in the other quarterfinal matchup. Two of the favorites for the WWC meet in the quarterfinal because of USA's loss to Sweden in the group stage. Germany is already out, and now either USA or Brazil will follow.
You know the rest of the story, and with all due respect to our fine mothership, Disney, I don't think even they could have written this script.
Unlike the Germany game of less than 24 hours prior, I always felt the U.S. could crawl out of this one. Even down a player for more than 55 minutes, the U.S. kept dominating, kept fighting, kept charging. When Abby put that goal in at 122 minutes (the latest Women's World Cup goal ever scored), I think my head and heart hit the stadium roof. But it wasn't over, of course. The U.S. had to win in penalty kicks.
And how about this for eerie similarities to another penalty kick moment, exactly 12 years to the day, in the 1999 World Cup: Hope Solo saves the third penalty kick in 2011, Brianna Scurry saved the third penalty kick in 1999. The fifth shooter for the U.S. is a defender, Ali Krieger, in 2011. The fifth shooter for the U.S. in 1999? Defender Brandi Chastain. With a World Cup on the line, Krieger calmly places it into the lower left corner and keeps the U.S. dream alive (and her jersey on). Staring down the abyss and the label of the "worst U.S. finish in a Women's World Cup," the U.S. Women's National Team showed the world why we love sports, why we love this country and why all of America should embrace this team.
9:30 p.m., Sunday: When I saw Abby Wambach after the game that night, she said with a big grin, "CAN YOU BELIEVE IT?!"
Of course I can. And we always will.