USA beat France 2-1 in Paris to seal progression to the semi-final where they will face Phil Neville’s Lionesses. Two goals from Megan Rapinoe was enough in the end, despite a late flurry from the hosts that saw Wendie Renard pull one back.
It was billed as the biggest game of the tournament so far and it certainly did not disappoint. Right from the off, both sides were going hammer and tongs at each other – and we didn’t have to wait very long for the first goal of the game either.
Five minutes in, USA were awarded a free-kick to the right of the penalty area. Megan Rapinoe stepped up to take and whipped a delicious low ball into the mixer – it bypassed every single player in the area and nestled in the far corner. After a week of controversy off the field, it didn’t take Rapinoe very long at all to prove how valuable she is on it.
After that, France grew into the match more and more but struggled to make any clear cut chances as the US put in their best defensive performance of the tournament so far. Crystal Dunn in the left back position was a standout performer, she didn’t give Kadidiatou Diani an inch all night.
In the second half, the tussle continued as both sides demonstrated the sheer footballing ability that earned them their reputation as the two best teams in the tournament. Eventually, we did get the goal that the second half deserved. Tobin Heath ran on to a great through ball down the right wing, looked up to see she had options in the box and delivered a lovely low cross into the feet of Rapinoe who slammed home her second of the night.
USA were in control and looked to be heading comfortably through to the semi’s, but Corinne Diacre’s side weren’t finished there. On 80 minutes, Wendie Renard pulled her side back into the game as she rose highest in the box to nod a sweet free-kick home. After that, the French continued an all out bombardment of a US defence that decided to stay back and stay resolute.
France could very well have been awarded a penalty late on too when the ball struck the arm of Kelly O’hara as Amel Majri tried to cross it in. The referee immediately waved it away, despite the protests of every single French player and spectator in the ground. Curiously, it wasn’t called back for a VAR review either, despite it being exactly the same as some of the penalty incidents we’ve seen given during the tournament already.
There was nothing O’hara could have done to get her arm out of the way, but that’s been the case for most of the handball penalties given in this tournament. I do believe the referee made the correct decision, but we need some consistency.
After the handball appeal, France’s late flurry started to whither away as the experienced American side put that experience to good use. They kept the ball in the France half of the pitch very well, drawing fouls from frustrated opponents. Ultimately, the US proved to be too strong for France and Jill Ellis’ side will progress to the semi-finals where they will play England.
Another small bit of good news for England is that because France are out, England are officially one of the top three European sides left in the tournament. As a result, Team GB will qualify for the Olympic Games in Tokyo next summer.