A much-praised Australian team has recovered from the danger of a group stage in a five-goal match, VAR, a 2-0 down comeback and hostile champions.
In the face of intense rivalry between nations in recent tournaments, Fifa proceeded with caution and appointed a Swiss referee. Esther Staubli tried to govern the process with cool neutrality, but the temperature continued to increase only in the Stade de la Mosson.
Marta, who was in the blue of Brazil and wanted to exercise her influence authoritatively, received the first conversation. A minute later, Andressa hit Tameka Yallop with a beating arm before veteran Formiga became the first in the book to commit a calculated foul. Emily van Egmond and Cristiane continued to growl, Tamires rattled Ellie Carpenter and Caitlin Foord brought the ball back to Andressa.
With just under 20 minutes advantage Yallop went under the challenge of Thaisa into the box. VAR suggested playing a handball in the match that triggered a foul, but Elise Kellond-Knight used his hand to cushion Staubli's whistle.
Brazilian right-back, Letícia Santos, marched forward and she was told by the full-back to have a hand on her shirt in the box. Marta got up. A flare of nostrils, a cheek blast of the six-time world player of the year. Lydia Williams chose a page; Marta the other.
If the US celebrations against Thailand had become a topic of conversation, Marta would have mocked her opponents with a low five as the Brazilian staff and players flocked to the sidelines.
When the game started again, both teams maintained the incredible intensity. Tamires muscled Emily Gielnik before he found Debinha. She went to Cristiane and the woman with her eyes on the golden boot climbed over Steph Catley, who was pressed centrally because of Clare Polkinghornes injury. Catley, the natural left-back, dropped 5 cm. It could have been a foot, as the Brazilian certainly climbed.
A helpless glance crossed Ante Milicic's face. His side was two but barely had a foot set wrong. As Brazil's intensity dropped only slightly, Australia's first half of the injury period saw Australia take the lead when Foord hurried home with a clever shot from Chloe Logarzo.
Vadão responded quickly. Marta and Formiga got out during the break. the former is still not fit, the latter with a booking. Ludmila came to Cristiane when Brazil returned to 4: 4: 2.
Debinha missed Alanna Kennedy a shot into the net. Both sides showed the highest quality touch in a contest of undiminished aggression.
Brazil became more compact and Australia won the race. Shortly before the end Logarzo fired for Sam Kerr, who did not make contact, but their presence was enough to distract Bárbara from the goal. It was 2: 2 and the noise in the stadium was even louder.
The game went from end to end. Debinha threw herself with outstretched bodies against an Andressa cross, and then Australia celebrated a third. Carpenter had been looking for Kerr, but the striker was in an offside position. VAR intervened, showing that the last touch had come from defender Monica, and Kerr was controversially considered unengaged.
Monica, now bearing the weight of Martha's bracelet, urged her teammates to calm down, maintain their faith, and keep their courage. Kerr improvised with a blow and braved physics as he found his way home from an impossible angle. Australia remained at its task and the team that finished the 2007 and 2016 World Championships was defeated.
This was a remarkable competition – of passion and skill – and a reminder of what is yet to come in France in 2019 in the context of intensifying competition.
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