The USWNT beat Spain 2-1 thanks to two Megan Rapinoe penalty kicks to advance to the quarter-finals of the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup on Monday.
World Cup Title Defense Continues
The US is advancing to the quarter-finals of the World Cup for the eighth consecutive time, dating back to 1991. The team came into this tournament as betting favorites to win it all. Ranked No. 1 in the world by FIFA, the Americans won the 2015 edition of the tournament in Canada.
A Back and Forth Contest
The team got off to a soaring start when it was awarded a penalty in the seventh minute after winger Tobin Heath was brought down in the box by Spanish center back Mapi Leon.
Megan Rapinoe stepped up to the spot, and comfortably drove a low shot past keeper Sandra Panos to make the game 1-0.
But, Spain was not going down without a fight. Just two minutes later, young winger Lucia Garcia pressured an American center back into turning the ball over at the top of her own box. Star forward Jenni Hermoso picked up the ball and curled it past US keeper Alyssa Naeher to tie the game.
The first half concluded with few clear chances for both teams. The US attempted many long balls over the top of Spain’s defense, while La Roja looked surprisingly dangerous on the counter attack.
The American break-through came in the 76 minute, when Rose Lavelle was brought down in the box by a soft challenge from a Spanish defender. After consultation with the video assistant referee, the penalty was confirmed and Rapinoe again stepped up to the spot. Again, she slotted a low shot home to retake the lead.
A Tale of Two Underwhelming Teams
Spain, ranked No. 13 in the world, marked the toughest team the US had to face so far. The Americans waltzed through the group stage, scoring a World Cup- record 18 goals in their first three games.
Spain, on the other hand, under-performed up to this point. Their possession-oriented, pass-heavy style of play sometimes did not generate enough chances for them. A narrow loss to Germany, a 3-1 victory over 10-woman South Africa (including two penalty goals), and a 0-0 stalemate with China meant La Roja advanced as the second place team in Group B.
Against the USWNT in Reims on Monday, though, they came to play. Physical play frustrated the US from the start, especially striker Alex Morgan. Spain attempted 21 tackles on the day, seven more than their opponents.
Both teams struggled for good chances. The US finished the game with two shots on target (both penalties), while Spain finished with four shots and only one on target.
Lucia Garcia was very active all game on the wing for Spain, as was Jenni Hermoso centrally. They failed to create enough menacing chances as a team, though. Hermoso was Spain’s best player this tournament.
For the US, Rose Lavelle looked dangerous. She had several inspiring runs through the heart of the Spanish midfield before delivering through balls to forwards. Also, Rapinoe was positive from open play at times, attempting a team-high six shots. Of course, she scored the decisive goals and was voted player of the match as a result.
— FIFA Women's World Cup (@FIFAWWC) June 24, 2019
The USWNT now plays host nation and No. 4-ranked France in the quarter finals Friday night.
Spain will be disappointed to lose such a close game, but this was the team’s first time advancing past the group stage of the Women’s World Cup. They have many young players, like Lucia Garcia, Patri Guijarro, and Nahikari Garcia who performed well in this tournament, and they have reason to be excited for the future.