The United States Women’s National Team has Megan Rapinoe to thank yet again for moving on to the next round, as she bagged her second consecutive brace against France to win 2-1 in Paris.
It was the biggest game of the tournament, with the two tournament favorites battling for a trip to the semifinals. The United States had come into the game off an unconvincing 2-1 win over Spain in the Round of 16, while the hosts had topped Brazil 2-1 in extra-time from a Amandine Henry goal.
With over 45,000 fans in attendance, the moment the matched kicked off the intensity was felt. But that didn’t stop the United States women from grabbing an early goal, as Rapinoe scored from a free-kick in the fifth minute of play. Her low, curling effort found its way through the legs of two players and to the back of the net for an early U.S. lead.
Chances would go begging for each side up to the end of the first half, and an early chance in the second half nearly put the United States up 2-0. Samantha Mewis had a great effort to the bottom corner but France goalie Sarah Bouhaddi did well to parry it wide, but was called upon shortly after as Tobin Heath nearly scored off the rebound.
The U.S. and the hosts continued to trade chances, as there were moments where the American defense looked very sloppy. But the second goal would come against the run of play, as Alex Morgan received the ball down the right side of the pitch, playing Heath through by herself down the wing. Heath played the perfect ball to the back post to the oncoming Rapinoe who was all alone to slot the ball home for the 2-0 lead. The Mewis run to the near-post drew all of France’s defenders off Rapinoe for her to score.
It looked as if the United States had all but put the game to bed as Rapinoe played the ball up to Morgan with her back to goal, and she took a touch before putting Dunn through down the left wing. Dunn played it across the box finding Heath’s first time effort that found the back of the net to give the United States a 3-0 lead, but was called back for offside. The referee then went to the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) to check for offside, as Dunn was called fractionally offside.
Only minutes later would France get themselves back into the game, as the United States opted for zonal marking over man-marking on the set piece, leaving defender Wendie Renard wide open to head the free-kick to the back of the net making it 2-1.
The intensity of the game hit its peak following the France goal, as players and fans were beginning to feel it as the clock kept ticking. Each team trading chances in the last moments of the game, and a near hand-ball that would have given France a penalty as the ball was played off U.S. defender Kelley O’Hara’s arm, but it was a natural position and the referee did not make the call.
The game would end 2-1 to the United States, who celebrated together with the thousands of traveling fans in attendance. It was Rapinoe’s day as she fed fire to the recent controversy around her, scoring her fourth goal in two matches and making it a four-way tie for the Golden Boot.
The United States take on England in the Semi-Finals Tuesday, July 2nd at 3:00 p.m. at Groupama Stadium in Lyon.