Reims, France (June 24, 2019) — Before the match even started, fans and commentators were already preparing for the next one. The U.S. Women’s National Team didn’t even need to step on the pitch in Reims before they started hearing chatter about USA vs. France.
However, what everyone forgot to do was not underestimate Spain. That’s who the United States needed to beat to get to the quarterfinals. It was clear that there was underestimation from fans, spectators and commentary crew. Throughout most of the Fox Sports broadcast, panelist were already giving the United States the win.
USWNT narrowly avoid disaster with Spain, advance to quarterfinals
Phrases regarding the USA having a comfortable win over Spain were tossed around. So, needless to say, Spain wanted to make a statement. Even though they eventually fell to the United States, that statement was made.
The first-ever meeting between Spain and the United States came in January. Just a few days after being taken down by France, the USWNT scored one goal to top Spain. However, the player to score that goal — Christen Press — only got one minute of action. She entered the match in the 96th minute.
The United States earned their two victories against Spain with penalty takes. The first penalty was given early in the match, when Mapi León fouled Tobin Heath inside the box. Megan Rapinoe, who donned the captain’s armband, took the kick and sent it past Sandra Paños.
However, the second penalty stirred some controversy.
In the 71st minute, Virginia Torrecilla was called for a foul on Rose Lavelle inside the box. After the match, Lavelle told reporters in the mixed zone that she felt she was clipped. However, others had a different opinion, including former USWNT World Cup champion Julie Foudy.
Seeing it live and having seen the replays, that was the softest of soft PK’s given on Rose Lavelle. If that was the other way, US fans would be similarly outraged. #FIFAWWC
— Julie Foudy (@JulieFoudy) June 24, 2019
Rapinoe slotted the second penalty kick home, giving the United States a late lead. They ended up holding onto the lead without making a substitute until the 85th minute.
Spain didn’t remain scoreless though. Only two minutes after Rapinoe’s first penalty kick, Jennifer Hermoso found the back of Alyssa Naeher’s net. Her goal came after a bad defensive giveaway from Becky Sauerbrunn and Naeher.
- That’s not a takeaway: Call me anti-USWNT all you want, but Foudy has it right. That’s never a penalty kick for any team. To give that penalty to the United States is essentially giving into the USA vs. France chatter. Spain had a real opportunity to disrupt the talk and advance to their first-ever quarterfinals. While Rapinoe still had to make the kick, it was essentially a free pass for the USWNT.
- Sauerbrunn’s confession: After the match, a few camera’s caught Becky Sauerbrunn in tears. That’s something that doesn’t happen too often. Sauerbrunn uttered the words “I’m overwhelmed” while hugging her teammate Tierna Davidson. That could mean many things, but there was a pure relief on her face to see the USWNT making it through. If Sauerbrunn was overwhelmed against Spain, she’ll have a tougher test against France.
- So what happens now: There’s no real favorite in the next match. France is the host nation and has plenty of momentum ahead of them. They defeated Brazil in the quarterfinals, arguably a tougher task than Spain. However, against the United States, the French will have to play no-mistakes football.
“It was incredible to see the heart of this team. We haven't been tested like this for a while.”@alexmorgan13 talks with @Alex_Curry about today's win, that final penalty, and looks ahead to France ⬇️ pic.twitter.com/cRLAc5yOxp
— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) June 24, 2019
It’s the big one. The USWNT will take on France on Friday at 3 p.m. ET/12 p.m. PT.