By Nancy Armour/The Associated Press
DRESDEN, Germany — The U.S. women have their quickest turnaround yet at the World Cup, with just two days to prepare for their semifinal against France after Sunday’s physically and emotionally draining epic against Brazil.
Not only will the Americans, the oldest team in the tournament, be playing on one fewer day of rest than they’ve been getting, but France will have had three days off by the time they meet Wednesday night.
“It’s a big difference I think,” said U.S. midfielder Heather O’Reilly, who played 108 minutes and showed no signs of the strained groin that kept her out of the final group game.
“Every hour counts in terms of recovery, but we have a fitness coach here, Dawn Scott, who’s really encouraged us even outside the World Cup about recovery strategies. It’s part of our culture now. Ice baths and massage … we’re just doing everything and anything to get our legs back and it’s been working. I think that showed, obviously, in the game.”
Down to 10 players for nearly an hour and on the verge of their earliest World Cup exit ever, the U.S. packed an entire tournament’s worth of theatrics into a 15-minute span by beating Brazil 5-3 on penalies after a 2-2 draw Sunday night. Abby Wambach equalized with a magnificent header in the 122nd minute, the deepest into a World Cup game a goal has ever been scored.
The Americans then buried their penalty kicks and goalkeeper Hope Solo denied the Brazilians again, batting away Daiane’s attempt after Cristiane and Marta had converted theirs.
It was the first time in women’s World Cup history that a team had come back to win after falling behind in extra time, and only the fourth time overall. Italy (1970 semifinals), Germany (1982 semifinals) and Sweden (1994 quarterfinals) did it in the men’s World Cup.
“I think we’re going to do everything possible to get our legs recovered,” said Carli Lloyd, one of seven Americans to play the entire game. “Yeah, I’d say it is a little bit of advantage to (France). But they also went into OT. It’s not really about how many days, it’s about how fast you can recover. And I think we are going to recover faster, and I think we’re going to be ready to go.
“Even if your legs are a little bit tired, you’re just going to dig deeper. We’ll get that rest after the final.”
France also won a penalty shootout, beating England on Saturday afternoon.
The Americans had a light day Monday before their afternoon flight to Dusseldorf. Those players who didn’t see time in Sunday’s game trained while those who did focused on recovery.
“It’s just about recovery,” said Shannon Boxx, who also played the entire game. “Ice bath, pool, making sure we’re getting fluids, making sure we’re eating right. Last night, we have our staff walking around making sure, even though we’re with our families, ‘Did you eat? Did you eat?’ Little things like that which you don’t really think are too important become very important when you only have two games left.”