Megan Rapinoe scored a brace of penalties as holders the United States beat Spain on Monday to march on to a mouthwatering quarterfinal against hosts France at the women’s World Cup, with Sweden joining them in the last eight.
On another day in the limelight for VAR, Sweden’s goalkeeper Hedvig Lindahl made a brilliant second-half penalty save as her country edged out Canada 1-0 in Paris, meaning they advance to a similarly enticing tie against Germany.
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 USA did not find the going easy against Spain in Reims.
Rapinoe’s first penalty which gave Jill Ellis’s 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 USA the tightest of wins and line up the French in possibly the most highly-anticipated match in the history of women’s football.
“I hope it’s wild and crazy and the fans are crazy and that there’s tonnes of media around it and it’s just a big spectacle,” Rapinoe said of Friday’s match.
“I think 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.”
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.