USA set up blockbuster with France in Women’s World Cup
Megan Rapinoe scored a brace of penalties as holders the United States beat Spain yesterday morning (Singapore time) to march on to a mouthwatering quarter-final against hosts France at the women's World Cup, with Sweden joining them in the last eight.
The showdown between the holders and the hosts had seemed inevitable from the moment the draw was made back in December but, after France laboured to beat Brazil in extra time on Sunday, the US did not find the going easy against Spain in Reims.
Rapinoe's first penalty which gave Jill Ellis' team an early lead came after Tobin Heath was brought down in the box by Maria Leon.
However, Jennifer Hermoso pounced to equalise moments later after Becky Sauerbrunn had been caught in possession, and Spain held their own after that against the World Cup favourites.
They were undone, though, by another penalty awarded for what looked a very slight touch on Rose Lavelle from Virginia Torrecilla.
The penalty was confirmed after a VAR check and Rapinoe smashed the ball into the same corner with 15 minutes left to give the US the tightest of wins.
They will line up against the French in possibly the most highly anticipated match in women's football history.
"I hope it's wild and crazy and the fans are crazy and that there are tonnes of media around it and it's just a big spectacle," Rapinoe said of their last-eight tie on Saturday morning (Singapore time).
"It's going to be incredible for the women's game. You have two heavy hitters meeting in the knockout rounds and this is everything you want."
GERMAN STAR TO RETURN
It is not what Spain wanted, and the penalty that decided the game left a bitter taste in their mouths.
"I didn't touch her... They blew for that penalty because it was the United States," a distraught Torrecilla said.
In Paris, Sweden edged out fifth-ranked Canada 1-0 at the Parc des Princes, thanks to a solitary second-half goal by Stina Blackstenius, superbly set up by Kosovare Asllani.
They will face Germany on Sunday morning (Singapore time) in a repeat of the gold-medal match at the 2016 Rio Olympics, where the Germans prevailed 2-1.
Meanwhile, Germany and Lyon star Dzsenifer Marozsan is set to make a return to World Cup action against Sweden after missing three games with a broken toe, coach Martina Voss-Tecklenburg said yesterday.
"We may decide on the day of the game whether Dzsenifer can play from the start or whether we will bring her on in the course of the game," she said.
Marozsan, 27, has scored 32 goals in 91 appearances for Germany and has won three Uefa Champions League titles with Lyon.
Last season, she was voted Player of the Year in France's Women's Division 1. - AFP