The United States Women’s National Team is on to the semifinals after winning a titanic showdown with host nation France, winning 2-1 at Parc des Princes in Paris. Megan Rapinoe scored both goals for the U.S., which looked a bit out of sorts at times, but considering the opponent was the world’s No. 4-ranked team, did well enough to survive and advance.
The win snapped a three-game winless streak against France for the USWNT (0-2-1) dating back to the a 1-0 win in the 2016 SheBelieves Cup. The United States improved to 18-3-3 in the all-time series between the two nations, but more importantly earned the right to face England in the semifinals next Tuesday in the Lyon suburb of Décines-Charpieu.
Jill Ellis went with the same lineup that faced Spain just four days ago.
For our Nation— U.S. Soccer WNT (@USWNT) June 28, 2019
For the , ⚪️ and
For U.S. all.
Lineup Notes: https://t.co/Swf85Gglmd#OneNationOneTeam pic.twitter.com/B2sgyUmQ9y
Early forays into each end resulted in a Julie Ertz shot that Sarah Bouhaddi handled comfortably in the first minute and Amel Majri going down in the penalty area a bit too easily to get a call, much to the chagrin of the host nation’s fans.
The U.S. broke through just five minutes into the match on a set piece after Alex Morgan was fouled. Rapinoe took a free kick to the left of the penalty area and drove a low ball into traffic, where it missed everyone and skipped into the net for a 1-0 lead.
DREAM START FOR THE USA! @mpinoe's free kick gets past everyone as the @USWNT takes an early lead once again! #FIFAWWC pic.twitter.com/K5oHYnCyvD— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) June 28, 2019
Majri found Eugenie Le Sommer with a cross in the 13th minute but the header was no trouble for Alyssa Naeher. The U.S. came back the other way and Rapinoe found Morgan but the Pride striker didn’t get much on her shot effort and it was easily collected by Bouhaddi.
Bouhaddi made a huge play to deny Rapinoe a scoring chance in the 16th minute, coming out of her area to get to a gorgeous long ball just ahead of the USWNT’s left wing and making a critical chall
Morgan went down with what appeared to be a knock to the head at the half hour mark but was able to continue. The USWNT then settled into a routine of turning the ball over cheaply — passing at just a 68% rate for the opening half — or just playing kickball to clear the ball away, ceding lots of extra possession to France. The French didn’t generate much of an attack out of it but did create a few set piece opportunities, although nothing much came from them.
The United States took its 1-0 lead into the break but France looked the better side for the final quarter of an hour of the opening 45 minutes.
The USWNT came out of the locker room with some urgency and nearly doubled the lead in the first minute. Sam Mewis forced a diving save from Bouhaddi in the 46th minute and Tobin Heath’s put-back attempt was stopped by the foot of the French keeper as she recovered from the initial save just in time. The ensuing corner kick fell to the feet of Morgan, who saw her shot blocked by Amandine Henry.
A free kick two minutes later was just out of Ertz’s reach at the near post but it fell to Crystal Dunn’s feet. Dunn took too heavy a touch and France cleared.
After withstanding the USWNT’s burst of energy, France started creating issues for the U.S. back line again. Le Sommer headed a corner kick cross over the bar in the 53rd minute, then sent in a cross three minutes later but Kelley O’Hara blocked it out for a corner. After a Mewis turnover, Le Sommer ended up with the ball at the back post but could only hit side netting from the tough angle in the 58th minute. A moment later, Dunn was beaten inside by Kadidiatou Diani but recovered to block the shot.
The hosts kept coming. O’Hara needed a minute to recover after taking a Majri shot in the chest at the top of the box in the 62nd minute. Two minutes later, Naeher made a diving save to catch a header by Valerie Gauvin, although the shot may have been drifting wide at minute 64.
The U.S. then took a stranglehold on the game a minute later. Morgan sent Heath down the right with a beautiful pass to split the defense. Heath took the ball down the right channel and looked to her left, where Mewis was making a run to the near post. France’s defenders followed Mewis in and Heath sent an agonizingly slow cross through the top of the area. Rapinoe ran onto it and smashed it home to make it 2-0.
MORGAN ➡️ HEATH ➡️ RAPINOE— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) June 28, 2019
A wonderful team goal doubles the @USWNT's lead! #FIFAWWC pic.twitter.com/B9OGQIKzSP
It took about five minutes for France to recover and start getting forward again. Gaetane Thiney carved through the U.S. defense in the 70th and found Gauvin, but the play was offside. Majri sent a cross onto the roof of the net two minutes later, and in the 73rd minute Diani baited Mewis into attempting a pass to Dunn, then calmly stepped in front of it, dribbled into the area and earned a corner.
The cross on the ensuing set piece was sent in too high and Le Sommer couldn’t get any power on her header and it popped up nice and easy for Naeher to collect.
The U.S. seemed to put the game away in the 75th minute. Morgan again unlocked the defense with a pass — this time for Dunn, who dribbled down the left and crossed to Heath for the finish. The flag came up and whether there was a review or not is anyone’s guess. The referee never went over to look to see if there was a clear and obvious error. It was a close play but I’m not sure you could definitively call it offside.
Hmmmm pic.twitter.com/EpjbEXNBTA— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) June 28, 2019
France kept coming, encouraged by the non-goal. O’Hara coughed up the ball in the 78th minute above her own area and Henry sent a drive at goal that Naeher stopped. A minute later, Le Sommer sent a chip shot that was headed just under the bar until Naeher tipped it over.
A minute later, O’Hara fouled Henry to the right of the area and France finally made the U.S. pay for sloppy play at the back. Thiney took the set piece and sent a perfect cross into the area to Wendie Renard, who had easily shed second-half sub Lindsey Horan and nodded her free header into the net to make it 2-1 in the 81st minute. The USWNT picked the wrong player to fail to defend, as Renard is easily France’s best threat on set pieces. All Renard had to do was run toward the goal and not miss the cross.
GAME ON!— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) June 28, 2019
Stop us if you've heard this before. Renard with the header off a set piece. France are back in it. #FIFAWWC pic.twitter.com/DGdOzfDNLZ
The French became more desperate as time wound down and threw more numbers forward, earning multiple set pieces. Henry nodded wide on a corner kick in the 83rd and Diani bundled a cross wide in the 87th.
But the U.S. was able to grind out the end of the game and kill it off. Morgan, Heath, Dunn, and Press especially worked hard down the stretch to keep the ball in the French end, earning repeated throw-ins and free kicks.
Finally the whistle blew and the United States had survived the host nation.
It doesn’t get any easier on the Yanks’ side of the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup. The U.S. will square off with England on Tuesday afternoon (ET) in the Lyon suburbs.