The U.S. Women’s national team advanced to the semifinals of the 2019 Women’s World Cup on Friday, with a 2-1 win over host nation France. Both sides entered the fixture as the number one and number two favorite to win the tournament, with many thinking that the winner of this game would go on to win the whole thing. That now remains to be seen, but the USA advance onward to a semifinal matchup vs England on Tuesday.
Megan Rapinoe got the stars and stripes off to a dream start with a free kick goal in the 5th minute of the game. She drilled the kick from the left side of the goal low and hard into a mix of French and American players. Somehow, through all the clutter, the ball squeaked through, and with the goalkeeper unable to see what was in front of her, it found the back of the net. Rapinoe then added on to her stellar game, knocking home a cross at the back post from Tobin Heath to put the U.S. up 2-0 in the 65th minute. From that point, the US went to a 5 player defensive system, a sign of “buttoning down the hatches” to try and close out the game.
In the 81st minute, France got one back off a free kick which found the head of the tallest player on the field in Renard. She powered the header past Naeher who had no chance to make the save, and France had life. The USA did well to hold off France for the final 10+ minutes, and send the host nation home much earlier than they would have liked.
France dominated possession having the ball for over 60% of the game, as well as having 20 shots to the USA’s 10. Despite having more of the ball, USA had more shots on target (8) and had the more dangerous chances of the game. With Rapinoe’s two goals, she now has five for the tournament, and is tied with teammate Alex Morgan and England forward Ellen White for the Golden Boot race.
“That was the most intense match I have ever been a part of” coach Jill Ellis said. “A win is a win in the World Cup”.
Julie Ertz added “We had to defend a lot. That’s what the game gave us. We take a lot of pride of having a lot of tools in our toolbox”. Ertz played a crucial role in midfield for the USA before dropping back into defense when the U.S. switched to a back five.
The USA has not trailed for a single minute of the 2019 World Cup, however, the margins of their victories have gotten smaller and smaller as each game has gone on. Going to a back 5, something rarely done by the USA who are known to constantly attack, shows just how nervy things got. Maybe that is a good thing though. The group heads into the semifinals vs England battle tested, knowing that they can grind out tight games. The Americans are now just two wins away from repeating as back to back World Cup champions, a feat only accomplished by Germany in 2003 and 2007.