Women's soccer: Rapinoe scores twice — again — as U.S. beats France to reach semifinals
PARIS — Megan Rapinoe struck twice as the United States beat host France 2-1 in the women’s World Cup quarterfinals at the Parc des Princes on Friday to set up a last-four clash with England.
Rapinoe, who was involved in a spat with U.S. President Donald Trump during the build up to the game, opened the scoring in the fifth minute with a low-struck free-kick from the left that went in untouched through a crowd of players.
The 33-year-old Rapinoe added their second goal in the 65th minute and although France got back in the game with a Wendie Renard header in the 81st, the U.S held firm to maintain its record of never missing the World Cup semifinals.
A night which showed just how far the women’s tournament has grown, with thousands of travelling American fans in a sell-out 45,000 crowd, ended in disappointment for the hosts.
Corinne Diacre’s French team played attractive, passing football but, while their style was more contemporary and aesthetically pleasing, it was the killer edge of the experienced Americans that proved decisive.
"You have to give it up to the French team. They outplayed us for sure with the ball today," said Rapinoe.
"But we were so good defensively, so strong. We hit them where it hurt, we took our chances. This team has an unreal amount of heart," she added.
Seeing the French defense had put just two players in the defensive wall for the early free-kick, Rapinoe accepted the invitation and her low drive flew through a crowded area and past unsighted goalkeeper Sarah Bouhaddi.
The U.S has scored in the opening 12 minutes of every game in this tournament and it also could draw on the fact that it has never lost a match after taking the lead in the World Cup.
France’s hopes of turning the match around depended on it opening up the American defense with its clever passing but while it impressed in build-up play, it created few openings.
France right winger Kadidatou Diani put left-back Crystal Dunn under intense pressure with her frequent dribbles down the flank, while on the left Amel Majri pushed progressively into an advanced role to the consternation of right-back Kelly O’Hara.
Yet despite all that promising play in the wide areas, the French struggled to provide striker Eugenie Le Sommer with real quality service and, having survived a wave of pressure after halftime, Rapinoe struck again.
Alex Morgan’s clever through-ball put Tobin Heath into space on the right and her low cross, pulled back behind the French line, found the hovering Rapinoe who slotted home her fifth goal of the tournament with confidence.
Heath’s effort that would have wrapped up the game was ruled out for offside, and France responded with one last push.
With nine minutes of regulation time remaining, the home side finally got some reward when Renard rose above the American defense, whose marking was unusually sloppy, to glance in a header from a Gaetane Thiney free-kick.
Jill Ellis’s U.S. side may not have the quality of passing and movement shown by the French but they certainly are not a side that are going to give up a two-goal lead.
Next up for the Americans is England on Tuesday in Lyon.
What happened: Megan Rapinoe scored twice for a second straight game to help the U.S. beat France 2-1 in a Women's World Cup quarterfinals game in Paris.
Up next: The U.S. faces England in the semifinals at 2 p.m. Tuesday (TV: Fox).