Women’s World Cup: USWNT charges past France in quarterfinal

PARIS, FRANCE - JUNE 28: Alex Morgan of the USA celebrates victory with her team mates after the 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup France Quarter Final match between France and USA at Parc des Princes on June 28, 2019 in Paris, France. (Photo by Robert Cianflone/Getty Images)
PARIS, FRANCE - JUNE 28: Alex Morgan of the USA celebrates victory with her team mates after the 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup France Quarter Final match between France and USA at Parc des Princes on June 28, 2019 in Paris, France. (Photo by Robert Cianflone/Getty Images) /
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The US always had control against the formidable French side

After its quarterfinal performance against France, I’ve decided the USWNT plays better when it is challenged, even threatened. They seem hungrier and more organized against a better side. They didn’t expect to be troubled against Spain and they struggled. The US conceded a goal late in the game against France, but the they never really struggled against the formidable French side.

The US went after the game early. They started shooting right after the whistle. In the 4th minute, US forward Alex Morgan earned her side a free kick just outside the 18-yard box. With the box crowded with US jerseys, Julie Ertz lurking at near post, Megan Rapinoe took the shot. French keeper Sarah Bouhaddi didn’t see the ball until it was in the net. It had sped untouched through traffic into the French goal. The US led 1-0 in the fifth minute.

Even with the lead, the US team continued to apply intense pressure. France was unable to get a rhythm. They looked nervy, squandering possession with poor touches and errant passes. Only French powerhouse forward Kadidiatou Diani was bright. As usual, Diani muscled her way up the right side. At first she got the better of US defender Crystal Dunn, but eventually Dunn figured her out and kept the pressure on.

The game remained 1-0 at halftime.

The United States started the second half with a fury. They drove at France immediately, earning two corners in two minutes. France weathered the storm. They got more time on the ball and started creating chances. The US responded with five in the back whenever the French attacked, then Julie Ertz would push up when the US had possession. France took some shots, but none of them troubled US keeper Alyssa Naeher.

In the 65th minute, Alex Morgan sent a ball through for Tobin Heath. Heath ran into the box and cut the ball back to Rapinoe. Rapinoe scored, her second on the night and fifth in the tournament.

After their 2nd goal, the US went on lock down. Julie Ertz joined the backline permanently. They allowed France more possession, but the French continued to commit unforced errors. The players seemed off, especially Gauvin and both Le Sommer and Majri on the left. In the 79th minute, Le Sommer sent up a rainbow that looked to slip just under the crossbar. Naeher got her fingers to it to tip it over for a corner.

In the 81st minute, France earned a free kick. Majri got her groove momentarily and delivered a perfect floater straight to the head of center back Wendie Renard. Rendard headed the ball into the US net. France 1; USA 2. The Paris crowd got behind the home team, but the US rode out the game with smart possession and whole team defense. Every member worked to keep or gain possession. Even Alex Morgan tracked back to defend or try to dispossess the French players. The US won that match 2-1.

Megan Rapinoe was named player of the match. Pinoe played great, but the US defense deserves accolades for the game. Becky Sauerbrunn appeared laser focused. Kelly O’Hara handled Amel Majri, one of the best attacking fullbacks in the game. The backline used Ertz on the double team or to cover, making it impossible for the French to take credible shots.

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Then there was Crystal Dunn’s performance. In Fox’s post game analysis, former USMNT player and Fox commentator Alexi Lalas said, “Crystal Dunn, take a bow.” Indeed, arguably, Dunn had the hardest job on the field: marking Diani and then Cascarino. Dunn all but neutralized Diani’s delivery and kept Cascarino out of the game completely. After today’s tutorial by France, Dunn and her teammate’s should be more prepared for the likes of Nikita Parris and Lucy Bronze come Tuesday’s semifinal match against England.