(PM) — Tonight saw the #1 world-ranked & Women’s World Cup holders’ U.S.A. team face off 4th ranked France at the Parc des Princes, Paris in the quarterfinals, with the winners facing England in Lyons next Tuesday 2nd July.
In the searing temperature of the current European heatwave, and against the backdrop of a partisan and record 45,000 crowd in France, the U.S. never showed lack of spirit or innovation from the kick-off in an intense & entertaining game.
The U.S.A., with an unchanged team, got off to the best possible start with an early goal against the hosts after less than five minutes after French defender Griedge Mbock Bathy was judged to have pulled the arm of captain Alex Morgan and received a yellow card.
Megan Rapinoe took the free kick from just outside the box which was powerfully struck close to the goal line and scored after clattering through French captain Amandine Henry’s legs and past the French goalkeeper Sarah Bouhaddi, leaving France stunned.
France battled back and gave the U.S. a good run for their money, though were no match for the U.S. player’s fitness and agility.
At 30 minutes there was a scare as captain Alex Morgan took a body blow and looked seriously winded, though she recovered.
The U.S. defense stayed solid after a dangerous moment in the first half with Megan Rapinoe clearing a corner from France taken by Gaetane Thiney.
The U.S. displayed overall command of great defensive play, with full back Crystal Dunn (voted Player of the Match) playing a key and a seemingly inexhaustible role in an unbeatable team effort at holding off France’s best efforts.
The second half saw the host team, willed on by the noisily reactive crowd continually pressing forward, putting the U.S. under constant pressure.
A volley from Amel Majri hit Kelley O’Hara’s body at speed and O’Hara took several moments to recover. Another injury scare was over for the U.S. and although post-match statistics indicated that France had a 61% possession rate over the U.S.’s 39%, you’d never have guessed that.
Despite France enjoying a period of threatening within the U.S. half, in the 62nd minute the U.S. caught them napping with a lethal pass from Alex Morgan to Megan Rapinoe from a counter-break and Rapinoe easily pushing in the second goal, with France’s defense non-existent.
A third goal for the U.S. from Tobin Heath was ruled offside to spare France’s lackluster defense further frustration.
France seemed even more urgent to gain at least one goal back and their hard work was rewarded in the 80th minute with a header from a set piece free kick, with the 6’1” tall Martinique-born Wendie Renard heading the ball decisively into the back of the net, which set the Parc de Princes alight, giving hope for the host team.
But France was simply outclassed and couldn’t match the defensive tactics and forward pressing of the U.S.
The result sees the U.S.A. go through to the semi-finals next Tuesday 2 July against England in Lyon.
U.S.A. head coach, British-born Jill Ellis said to BBC after the match “That was the most intense match I have ever been a part of. France are an incredible team. The surge from the fans was intense, like a tsunami.”
Megan Rapinoe’s two goals in this match make her the joint-lead goal scorer and contender for the Golden Boot in this tournament, alongside teammate Alex Morgan, England’s Ellen White, and Australia’s Sam Kerr, though Australia is now out of the tournament.
The next quarterfinals to be played tomorrow 29 June will see Italy v Netherlands and Germany v Sweden.