The U.S. women’s national team made hard work of it, but they beat Spain 2-1 in Reims on Monday to set up a clash with hosts France in the 2019 World Cup quarterfinals.
With the win the USWNT also kept their proud record intact of reaching at least the last eight of every World Cup in history, as they’ve never previously fallen before the semifinal stage.
A penalty kick in each half from USWNT captain Megan Rapinoe did the damage as a physical Spanish side pushed the USA all the way as Jenni Hermoso’s fine goal after a defensive mix-up made it 1-1 following Rapinoe’s early penalty kick.
However, a PK with 15 minutes to go, which was checked by VAR, saw Rapinoe send the USWNT through to a last eight clash with hosts France at the Parc des Princes on Friday.
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Spain almost scored in the opening moments of the game as a sweeping move found Patri Guijarro but her powerful shot was blocked bravely by Becky Sauerbrunn.
Moments later the USWNT were ahead.
Tobin Heath won a penalty kick inside the first five minutes as her sublime first touch resulted in a clumsy tackle from Spain’s Mapi Leon which brought Heath down. Rapinoe calmly dispatched the spot kick to make it 1-0.
However, Spain were level less than two-and-a-half minutes later after an awful defensive mistake from the USWNT.
Goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher passed the ball to Sauerbrunn but she was closed down quickly and Hermoso chipped home the loose ball brilliantly to make it 1-1. Game on.
The flow of the game continued to be frantic as Rapinoe was set free by Rose Lavelle and she forced Spain’s goalkeeper Sandra Panos to save at her near post. Julie Ertz then smashed over from a good position as the USWNT looked more dangerous, but Spain continued to press high up the pitch whenever they could and caused the U.S. problems.
In the second half Spain disrupted the USA’s flow with plenty of strong challenges as the game turned into a scrappy encounter.
Rose Lavelle drilled a shot from distance just over as the USWNT clicked through the gears in the final third of the game. But at the other end Spain were dangerous on the counter as Patricio Guijarro surged into the box and her shot was inches wide.
The excellent Lavelle then won a penalty kick 15 minutes from time as she was clipped in the box and after a VAR review, the referee upheld her original decision.
After a lengthy delay Rapinoe stepped up to score her second penalty of the game to make it 2-1 and send the USWNT into the quarterfinals of the World Cup where they will face France in Paris on Friday.