Efficiency in the final third may have been lacking, yet still the U.S. women endured some nervous moments in their Olympic quarterfinal against rival Canada and prevailed, 2-1, in overtime. Angela Hucles and Christine Sinclair scored in regulation, which ended 1-1 after heavy rain and lightning forced play to be suspended for 99 minutes. Eleven minutes into overtime, substitute Natasha Kai -- at least a tad offside when Shannon Boxx lofted a cross in her direction -- stooped to head the ball past Canadian keeper Karina LeBlanc from point-blank range to provide the winning margin.
The Americans advanced to the semifinals and a rematch with Japan, which defeated host China, 2-0, to reach the final four of a world championship for the first time. Japan lost to the USA,1-0, in the group phase before inflicting a 5-1 hammering on Norway that enabled the Americans to capture first place on goal difference.
The USA-Japan game will be played Monday at 9 a.m. ET at the Workers' Stadium in Beijing and televised live on MSNBC and the official Olympic Website, www.nbcolympics.com.
Dominance throughout the match enabled the U.S. to pile up a 34-8 edge in shots yet Canada stubbornly kept the game tied after Sinclair equalized with a tremendous blast from distance. She scored about nine minutes after referee Jenny Palmqvist restarted play following her suspension of the game in the 21st minute as rain poured down and lightning flashed in the skies above Shanghai Stadium.
Through some nice combination play by Carli Lloyd, Lindsey Tarpley, and Heather O'Reilly the USA carved open a chance in the 12th minute. Amy Rodriguez ran onto Lloyd's pass and hit a cross that OReilly headed on goal. Keeper Erin McLeod, who was injured on the play and had to be substituted, saved the shot but couldn't stop Hucles from tapping in the rebound.
After Canada's equalizer, Rodriguez ran its defense ragged without reward as the USA played its longest stretch of crisp attacking play seen so far in this competition. Hucles squandered a pair of good chances and a Boxx header sailed just wide. In the final seconds, Lloyd centered a ball that Rodriguez directed low toward the corner but without great power, and LeBlanc stretched out her right hand to push it aside.
Canada had burned an extra sub on Brittany Timko, who'd come on at halftime, suffered a back injury in a 50-50 encounter with keeper Hope Solo and had to come off. Canada concentrated on blotting out the U.S. attack in the second half, yet conjured up a few threatening counters, one of which yielded a through ball in the 87th minute that Solo smothered at the feet of Timko, who needed several minutes of medical attention on the field.
Her departure deprived Canada coach Even Pellerud, who is stepping down after nine years in charge, of any substitution options in overtime, which is when Kai replaced O'Reilly. Soon thereafter she got in behind the Canadian back line as Rodriguez dropped the ball back for Boxx, appearing in her 100th international, to cross. The noggin of the Flyin' Hawaiian did the rest.
In the other semifinal, tournament heavyweights Germany and Brazil meet in Shanghai at 6 a.m. ET Monday. The Germans, like the Americans, needed overtime to subdue Sweden, 2-0 in their quarterfinal. Brazil knocked off Norway, 2-1, to set up the rematch between the teams that met in last year's Women's World Cup final, which Germany won, 2-0.
GAME SUMMARY (Olympic quarterfinal)
Aug. 15 in Shanghai, China
USA 2 Canada 1 (OT). Goals: Hucles 12, Kai 101; Sinclair 30.
USA - Solo, Chalupny, Markgraf, Mitts, Rampone Boxx, Lloyd, 9- O'Reilly (Kai, 91), Tarpley (Heath, 82), Hucles, 8-Amy Rodriguez (Cheney, 109).
Canada -- McLeod (LeBlanc, 19) Zurrer, Chapman, Franko, Rustad, ] Schmidt, Wilkinson, Matheson, Sinclair, Tancredi (Timko, 46, Filigno, 92+), Lang.
Yellow cards: USA - Cheney 111; Canada -- Franko 70, Lang 84.
Referee: Jenny Palmqvist (SWE).