USWNT / Women's World Cup

Match report: USA 2-1 France

Photo Credit: fifa.com

In arguably the most anticipated match of the tournament, the USA beat France, 2-1 in front of a split, sold-out crowd in Paris on Friday night. Megan Rapinoe once again scored both goals for the US, making women’s World Cup history and sending the red, white and blue to the semifinals.

Starting off quickly, an early foul on Alex Morgan led to a goal for the USA in the fifth minute. The free kick from Rapinoe was hit well, to the near post, but it was the traffic that confused goalkeeper, Sarah Bouhaddi. It looked like the ball deflected off of Julie Ertz, but it was all Rapinoe, with a little bit of poor goalkeeping.

In the first fifteen minutes of the match, the USA, dressed in all white, controlled the pace. Long, run-on balls are the USWNT’s specialty, and were frequent early on. Rapinoe almost had a chance at her second goal of the match, but Bouhaddi came out strong to win the ball back for her team in blue.

France set a very high line the entire match, Bouhaddi especially. Using the USA’s weak outside defenders against them, France was able get some good shots off at Alyssa Naeher. However, the red, white and blue’s defensive line stood strong and level, leading to several offsides calls against the high-pressed French offense. But as the first half progressed, France began to control more and more of the pace, generating more goal scoring opportunities. Naeher was able to scoop up every shot without issue, but France was putting on the pressure.

Once again, the USA came out strong early in the second half, with a great chance to go up 2-0 that was saved by a diving Bouhaddi. But just like the first half, France began to take control of the match. While able to stop France’s attacks, the red, white and blue really struggled to successfully clear the ball. The USA’s midfield broke down a bit just before the hour mark, allowing for France to easily control possession in the USA’s half and pass the ball easily around to create chances.

The 58th minute brought France’s best chance. Kadidiatou Diani beat Crystal Dunn once again, sending a cross/shot across the goal that Naeher came out for and missed, falling just by the far post, but Eugenie Le Sommer hit her shot just wide of the net. Despite France’s strong possession, the US scored again on the counterattack. In the 65th minute, Tobin Heath ran on to a great pass up the right sideline and crossed it behind Sam Mewis, which looked like a bad pass, but purposefully fell to a wide open Rapinoe who buried her second goal of the night.

After that second goal, France’s pressure seemed to drop off, not really generating any chances to score. Instead, Heath almost gave the US its third goal, burying the ball in the back of the net after running onto a ball from an offsides position. A quick review from the ref confirmed Heath was offsides and was not a valid goal. But then control switched back to France, with pressure and crosses coming from the USA’s left side. One cross had Naeher quickly punching the ball just over the net in their closest chance of the night.

France cut the lead in half with a free kick that Wendie Renard redirected with her head and past Naeher in the 81st minute. Renard was wide open and the obvious target from a well struck free kick. The US just parked the bus, allowing a renewed France to repeatedly attack them in the last ten minutes of the match. As the red, white and blue defended well against France, the crowd drastically shifted to favor the US, which had been mixed all night. The US finished the match with a 2-1 victory over France, knocking the host team out of the tournament.

USA advances to the semifinals against England on Tuesday, July 2 at 3:00pm.

Three points

Megan Rapinoe saves the US again. Back-to-back braces is putting Rapinoe up on top. As in first person in women’s World Cup history to ever have two braces in two consecutive matches. Plus, she’s falling into serious contention for the Golden Boot, now with 5 goals in the tournament and 49 total international goals for the US. Last match was her wort of the tournament, and her performance was definitely improved today.

USA out-muscled and out-possessed by France. France out-muscled the US, plain and simple. Diani pressured Dunn the entire match and frequently exploited the leftback’s weaknesses and limited time in defense. It allowed France to control the 60% of ball possession throughout the match. Yes, France had the ball 60% of the match. The US was content to hang back and let France attack them, which is not France’s style at all. The host team is not great on the ball, with their biggest weakness being passing, which is exactly why the US let them control the ball and be their own worst enemy tonight.

Jill Ellis’ interesting tactics. Tonight was Jill Ellis’ 100th victory. Ellis made some interesting choices tonight, including bringing on attacker, Carli Lloyd for midfielder, Sam Mewis right after France scored and the US really parked the bus. She hasn’t switched up the lineup too much, only for injuries, not for tactics. So far nobody has yet to crack the USA’s strategy, with the US winning every match and only allowing two goals in the tournament. The opponent’s are only getting more difficult as matches carry more importance, so it will be interesting to see if Ellis changes her tactics moving forward.

Lineups

USA

Alyssa Naeher; Kelley O’Hara, Abby Dahlkemper, Becky Sauerbrunn, Crystal Dunn; Rose Lavelle (Lindsey Horan 63′), Julie Ertz, Samantha Mewis (Carli Lloyd 82′); Tobin Heath, Alex Morgan, Megan Rapinoe (c) (Christen Press 87′).

Unused substitutes: Morgan Brian, Mallory Pugh, Ali Kreiger, Tierna Davidson, Emily Sonnett, Ashlyn Harris, Allie Long, Adrianna Franch, Jessica McDonald

France

Sarah Bouhaddi; Amel Majri, Wendie Renard, Griedge Mbock Bathy, Marion Torrent; Elise Bussaglia, Gaetane Thiney, Amandine Henry (c); Eugenie Le Sommer (Viviane Asseyi 82′), Valerie Gauvin (Delphine Cascarino 76′), Kadidiatou Diani

Unused substitutes: Solene Durand, Eve Perisset, Aissatou Tounkara, Sakina Karchaoui, Grace Geyoro, Emelyne Laurent, Charlotte Bilbault, Pauline Peyraud-Magnin, Julie Debever, Maeva Clemaron

Goals

USA: Megan Rapinoe – 5′

USA: Megan Rapinoe (Tobin Heath) – 65′

Cards

FRA: Griedge Mbock Bathy – yellow – 4′

FRA: Elise Bussaglia – yellow – 90’+4′

2 Comments

  1. Overall I think it was a deserved win by the U.S. team despite the possession imbalance. Much of the 2nd half the U.S. was dedicated to absorbing pressure and looking to counter off turnovers, which France was offering up in truckloads and directly led to the 2nd goal. It was a solid strategy, as was going with 5 in the back and 3 protecting mids for long stretches. France was clearly frustrated and had several shots blocked. Sauerbrunn and Ertz in particular had great matches on the defensive side.

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    However, I have serious concerns about Dunn being overrun by Lucy Bronze’s overlapping runs on Tuesday. England’s right side is probably the most potent attacking flank at the world cup right now and carved up Norway with ease. Additionally, I don’t think Morgan should start on Tuesday. Over much of her career she’s feasted on minnows like Thailand but disappears against legitimate competition and offered little against either Spain or France. Press has been active and had some success so far this tournament with the limited minutes she’s had. Morgan could be an awesome potential super-sub.

  2. I see the difficulty on the left back side, but I am not as concerned about it as some people are. I think that Dunn demonstrated the old coaching saw that a striker can be trained to be an effective defender, long before a defender can be converted to a striker. She disrupted, slowed and diverted Diani sufficiently that the French attack would up with more long shot attempts than they were trying to execute. The US needs to provide help for Dunn, especially on the inside, since England has such an imbalanced attack, but that can be accomplished with Dunn in place. Ertz and Sauerbrunn are both aware and aggressive enough to blunt that attack and the crosses that may come from it. Yesterday’s game was interesting in that there seemed to be a panic from the French side after that first goal; they looked like they were unwilling and/or unable to persuade themselves that they could get 2 against the US. Instead of the organized and persistent attack that I had seen earlier, they looked much more frenetic, and while the style of play that the US forced France to use wasn’t their normal approach, I was impressed by the strategic shift demonstrated by the US after that first goal. Maybe the same approach will work with England as well. Strike early, then bunker and long ball. I hate to see that with a one or even two goal lead most of the time, but the ball control that Heath and company bring can make those counterattacks work.

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