On July 10, 1999, the fate of the Women’s World Cup final came down to a shootout between China and the U.S. Everyone watched as Briana Scurry made an incredible save, blocking China’s third penalty kick and giving Team USA an incredible advantage in the shootout. With the tally 4-4, Brandi Chastain stepped up to the line for the fifth and final penalty kick for the US team; the most important kick in her life. To stay focused, Chastain avoided eye contact with China’s goalie. She drilled the ball into the back of the net for the win. Then she dropped to her knees and ripped off her shirt in celebration, exposing her sports bra in what became the most iconic image for women’s soccer.
Fast-forward exactly 12 years to July 10, 2011, when a semifinal bid for the Women’s World Cup rested on the outcome of a shootout between Brazil and the U.S. The American goalie, Hope Solo, deflected Brazil’s third penalty kick. Ali Krieger walked up to take Team USA’s fifth penalty kick and blasted the ball into the back of the net winning the game for the US.
In both games, the U.S. played 120-plus minutes of soccer ending with a shootout, they blocked the opposing team’s third kick in the shootout, and won the game on their own fifth kick. And who happened to be one of the ESPN guest commentators as Krieger blasted in the goal for the win? None other than Brandi Chastain. That is beautiful soccer symmetry.
“Well, I guess first of all, you don’t want to have a penalty kick shootout against the USA on July 10th, because we’re 10 for 10,” Tony DiCicco, former head coach of the USA Women’s National Team and the 1999 US Women’s World Cup Team, said in a post-game analysis on ESPN.
Today the U.S. beat France in the semifinals, 3-1. They’ll play Japan for the championship on Sunday.