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U.S. Women's Soccer Team Advances To The Final Four At The Olympics

SARAH MCCAMMON, HOST:

The U.S. women's soccer team is advancing to the semifinals of the Tokyo Olympics after defeating the Netherlands in a tight match that went to a penalty kick shootout. NPR's Russell Lewis joins us now from Tokyo to discuss what happened and what's coming next. Hi, Russell.

RUSSELL LEWIS, BYLINE: Hey there.

MCCAMMON: OK, so let's talk about this game. How did the U.S. play?

LEWIS: Well, it was a nail-biter, no doubt. It was a grinding kind of match. There was a lot of back-and-forth play. The Netherlands scored first, 1-nothing. Then the U.S. evened it up, 1-1, then 2-1, then to halftime. Then they made it 2-2, and then they went to extra time, a half-hour, and the penalty kick shootout. It was a grind, but the U.S. pulled it out.

MCCAMMON: Nail-biter, indeed. OK, so it ended up going to a shootout. First of all, for our non-soccer fans - maybe myself, Russell - explain what that is, if you would.

LEWIS: (Laughter) Absolutely. So the penalty kick shootout is when two teams are tied at the end of regulation, and they go into extra time. And if they're still tied at the end of extra time, they go into what's called the penalty kick shootout or, as referees would want you to know, kicks from the mark. And so what it is, is that each team gets one penalty kick right in front of the goal, in front of the other goalie, and they alternate one after another.

And so in this case, the Dutch started off the kicks right off the bat. They got the first kick, and then the goalkeeper - Alyssa Naeher for the U.S.A. - made a stop. And that automatically gave the U.S. sort of an early advantage, and then they alternated their kicks back-and-forth.

And for the U.S., Rose Lavelle got the first penalty kick. That was followed by Alex Morgan. That was followed by Christen Press. And then the decisive kick, which won it for the U.S.A., was Megan Rapinoe, of course. That's what she does. And she kicked it, and that was it. She turned around, folded her arms, looked at her teammates, who were rushing toward her, and there was a big mob scene. And the U.S. moves on.

MCCAMMON: And I understand there's a history between the U.S. and the Netherlands teams. Tell us more about that.

LEWIS: Yeah, so the U.S. and the Netherlands actually played in the World Cup final just two years ago, a World Cup that was won by the United States. That, too, was a grind kind of a game. But the U.S. won that game 2-nothing. Also, there was a penalty kick by Megan Rapinoe in that game, too. So these teams have a long history. The Netherlands, of course - or the Dutch - are the European champion. They have been around for a while. They are ranked fourth in the world. The U.S., of course, is ranked No. 1 in the world.

You know, and we should point out that in the quarterfinals, we should remember, five years ago at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics, the U.S. lost in the quarterfinals. They exited without even a medal. So here you are playing in the quarterfinals yet again in a tight match against an opponent you know well and who is really good, and they found a way to make it win.

And we should say of all of the goal-scoring that the U.S. did, we cannot overemphasize the goalkeeper for the U.S., Alyssa Naeher. She was incredible. She did an amazing job, making several key stops during the game, a penalty kick earlier in the game, and then those two key penalty kicks during the shootout.

MCCAMMON: Really quickly, what's next for the women's soccer team?

LEWIS: They go on to play Canada in the semifinals, and that is going to be a great game on Monday. And of course, whoever wins that game goes on to play for the gold medal.

MCCAMMON: NPR's Russell Lewis reporting from Tokyo. Thanks, Russell.

LEWIS: You're welcome.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.