Brazil were made to sweat before clinching a place in the semifinal of the women’s football tournament with a dramatic 7-6 penalty shoot-out victory against Australia at the Mineirão Stadiumin Belo Horizonte on Friday.
There was jubilation for the hosts, relief for idol Marta after she missed one of the penalties, and floods of tears from Australia defender Alanna Kennedy and her team-mates.
It was Kennedy who had the misfortune to see her kick, the 16th of the night, brushed to safety by Barbara after the match finished 0-0 in 90 minutes. Nor were there any goals in extra-time.
Brazil next play Sweden, shock conquerors of the USA also in a shoot-out, in the semifinal at the Maracanã on 16 August, having already demolished them 5-1 in group E.
The Matildas, as the Australians are known at home, are ranked no.5 in the world to Brazil’s no.8 and knocked them out of the 2015 World Cup. Yet they only squeaked into the quarter-finals after finishing third in group F.
In a physical and tight contest, Australia came close to inflicting further agony on an ageing side, but Brazil can still dream of a glorious farewell at the Maracanã.
Marta, Formiga and Cristiane are unlikely to be around at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, so winning a first gold medal after two near misses (silver medals at Athens 2004 and Beijing 2008) remains a priority.
For Marta it was a mixed match. She produced one sparkling run near the end of normal time and forced Lydia Williams into a smart save in extra-time before her penalty miss.
When Marta missed the penalty, all minds in the Mineirão went back to the men’s World Cup semi-final in 2014, when Germany booted Brazil out of their own tournament with a 7-1 thrashing.
Fortunately for Marta and Brazil, Katrina Gorry also failed from the spot, extending the shoot-out even further and paving the way for Barbara’s match-winning heroics.