Women's World Cup 2019

U.S. on the double to meet England

The United States' Megan Rapinoe has plenty to celebrate, with a free-kick goal after just five minutes and a second-half strike.
The United States' Megan Rapinoe has plenty to celebrate, with a free-kick goal after just five minutes and a second-half strike.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Rapinoe brace earns tense last-eight win over France, confirms champions' favourite billing

PARIS • United States coach Jill Ellis says her team have the Women's World Cup firmly in their sights, after they reached the semi-finals by beating hosts France 2-1.

England await the defending champions on Tuesday after they survived a pulsating quarter-final, billed as the final that should have been, thanks to Megan Rapinoe's brace before a 45,595 capacity crowd at the Parc des Princes.

"We're on a mission, that was the message. It was a gritty win for us," Ellis said after her side held off a late French wave following Wendie Renard's 81st-minute header.

"A win's a win in the World Cup. We knew the intensity of the fans behind that team, it's an incredible team. And add to that the surge of momentum from the fans.

"At times it felt like a bit of a tsunami."

She deployed unusually defensive tactics in the second half on Friday, bringing on Lindsey Horan and Carli Lloyd in midfield to try to close out the match.

Said Ellis: "We knew way back that this was probably the match-up. Tactics are tactics and, if they help you get a result, then fair play."

She was full of praise for captain Alex Morgan, who has not scored since hitting five against Thailand but was key to both goals.

Just five minutes in, she won a free kick that Rapinoe, who scored two penalties in the last-16 win over Spain, drilled home through a crowded box. Then, she sent Tobin Heath away to lay on a low cross for Rapinoe's second on 65 minutes.

Ellis said: "She (Morgan) worked her tail off. I think she put her heart and soul into this game, I really do. She showed a lot of guts tonight."

English-born Ellis will play Phil Neville's Lionesses, who thumped Norway 3-0 on Thursday, and she expects a similarly tough match in Lyon as against the French side.

She said: "It was a dominant performance (against Norway). They're a good team, front to back. A lot of experience, a lot of really good.

"I respect Phil and I know he'll have his players ready as will we. We'll see how it plays out."

France coach Corinne Diacre accepted that her team's campaign would go down as a "failure" but said she would not resign.

"I am not the type to step down. The president (of the French Football Federation) showed confidence in me by giving me a long-term contract," said the coach, who has overseen five successive last-eight exits in major tournaments - two World Cups, two European Championships and an Olympics.

  • 10 

    Champions United States have won their last 10 matches at the Women's World Cup, equalling the record Norway set between 1995 and 1999.

"The decision is up to him. I still feel that I have work to do."

France's women had been dreaming of emulating their men, who lifted the World Cup in Russia last year and first won football's showpiece event as hosts in 1998.

Diacre had been set the target of at least going to the final but, just like in 2015, they fell short.

"Yes it's a failure in a footballing sense, we can't hide from that," she said. "We are far from fulfilling our objective. I hope we won something else tonight and since the start of the tournament, which is people's hearts.

"We showed that, despite everything, we were not all that far away from beating the United States.

"I've never seen the USA finish with five at the back but it's no consolation."

Yesterday, the Netherlands left it late with a pair of headers via free kicks, from striker Vivianne Miedema (70th minute) and defender Stefanie van der Gragt (80th), to beat Italy 2-0 in Valenciennes. The European champions will face either Germany or Sweden in the other semi-final on Wednesday.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on June 30, 2019, with the headline 'U.S. on the double to meet England'. Print Edition | Subscribe