The United States escaped from its toughest test thus far in the Women’s World Cup, as Megan Rapinoe converted two penalties to lead the Americans to a 2-1 victory over Spain in the Round of 16.

Women’s World Cup USA Spain
The United States is through to the quarterfinals of the Women’s World Cup after a 2-1 victory over Spain. (Image: Alessandra Tarantino/AP)

The win means that the US women will advance to take on France in the quarterfinals of the tournament on Friday.

Spain First to Score vs. USA at World Cup

The match got off to a fast start, with the two teams exchanging goals within the first 10 minutes. The scoring opened after Tobin Heath drew a penalty, allowing Rapinoe to step up to the spot. The US captain confidently slotted the ball home to give the Americans a 1-0 lead, and it appeared as though the United States might be in line for another big win.

But just three minutes later a poorly handed pass by Becky Sauerbrunn led to a giveaway deep in USA territory. Jenni Hermoso received the ball and beat Alyssa Naeher by deftly placing the ball into the top corner from 18 yards out, tying the game at one goal apiece. It was the first goal conceded by the United States so far in the 2019 Women’s World Cup.

The United States was able to generate a number of scoring chances throughout the rest of the first half, but in contrast to its group stage games, Spain had its opportunities as well. And when the second half began, both teams had sporadic chances, though neither came particularly close to putting a ball in the back of the net.

The breakthrough came in the 76th minute. Rose Lavelle was clipped by defender Virginia Torrecilla in the box, with the referee immediately calling a penalty. The fact that there was minimal contact resulted in a VAR review, but the decision was ultimately upheld, allowing Rapinoe to bury a second penalty and give the Americans a 2-1 lead.

Spain went on the offensive and looked to send the match into extra time. In the dying seconds of added time, a Spanish player went down in the box, but no VAR review was initiated, and when the final whistle blew, the USA had advanced to the quarterfinals.

Both Coaches Praise Effort

Despite the result, Spanish coach Jorge Vilda was proud of his team’s effort.

“In terms of competitiveness, we gave the best team in the world a run for their money,” Vilda said at his post-match press conference. “It was a great effort on the part of all the players. We’re going to grow from this defeat, and I’m really sure all the players on the team have ensured their future.”

The game wasn’t the best performance from the United States. Head coach Jill Ellis also faced criticism for some of the decisions she made during the match, including a decision not to make a single substitution under the 85th minute despite the fact that the US looked sloppy at the back and only generated a single shot on goal from the run of play.

But after the match, Eillis focused on praising her team for fighting through their toughest test yet.

“You can talk tactics, but heart, grit and resolve – that’s a big part of World Cup soccer,” Ellis said after the match. “No game is every easy in this tournament. We know that, we’ve learned that. So part of it is the mental piece, and I thought they were great tonight.”

The next match for the United States might be its toughest. The USA (-146) has opened as a slight favorite to go through against France (+104) according to FanDuel Sportsbook, and the winner of that quarterfinal will be the clear favorite to win the Women’s World Cup.

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