U.S. women’s soccer team reaches gold medal match with 123rd-minute stunner

Brooks Peck
Fourth-Place Medal

With an Alex Morgan header off a brilliant Heather O'Reilly cross at the very end of the second period of extra time (gif here), the U.S. completed yet another astounding comeback win against a truly excellent Canadian team to reach the gold-medal match of the Olympic women's soccer tournament. Christine Sinclair gave Canada a lead three times within the first 75 minutes of play, but the U.S. kept fighting back and in doing so produced a 4-3 win and one of the most memorable events of these Olympics.

Over a 20-minute span in the second half, Megan Rapinoe twice equalized for the U.S. -- first with a goal scored directly from a corner kick and then with a blast off the post and in -- and Sinclair twice gave the lead back to Canada. In the 80th minute, with Canada clinging to a 3-2 lead against a team it hasn't beaten since 2001, goalkeeper Erin McLeod was called for a highly unusual time wasting offense and the U.S. was given an indirect free kick inside the box. Rapinoe's free kick hit a member of Canada's wall and a handball was called, giving the U.S. a penalty. Wambach scored her fifth goal of the tournament to put the now controversial match even at 3-3 and it went to extra time from there.

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[ Related: Canada's coach takes issue with U.S. marking ]

With both sides exhausted from the match's blistering pace, the break-neck scoring pace went cold and penalties seemed almost certain. But in the final minute of added time at the end of the second period of extra time, Morgan headed in O'Reilly's cross for a 123rd-minute winner that stunned the hard done-by Canadians. It was a goal reminiscent of Abby Wambach's iconic 122nd-minute header against Brazil in last year's Women's World Cup final and it set up a rematch of that tournament's final between the U.S. and Japan.

Japan beat France 2-1 earlier in the day, benefiting from a mistake by French goalkeeper Sarah Bouhaddi on its first goal and France's inability to convert a 78th-minute penalty that would've been the equalizer. So the reigning Women's World Cup champions hardly looked unbeatable as the U.S. hopes to avenge last year's shootout loss.

There are not enough superlatives in the English language for the entertaining madness this match somehow contained or the individual performances that produced it. Though Canada will feel betrayed by the referee, there was absolutely no shame in its performance. The U.S. just has an unbelievable knack for last-second heroics.

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