Belfast Telegraph

Spot-on Rapinoe is quick to hail the USA's mettle

Spain 1 United States 2

Tight battle: Spain ace Jennifer Hermoso battles for possession with Julie Ertz of the USA in Reims
Tight battle: Spain ace Jennifer Hermoso battles for possession with Julie Ertz of the USA in Reims

By Robert Jones

United States hero Megan Rapinoe praised the "grit" shown by her side as her brace of penalties saw the USA hold off a stubborn Spain and advance to the quarter-finals of the Women's World Cup with a 2-1 win in Reims.

Rapinoe scored from the spot in both halves, either side of an equaliser from Jennifer Hermoso, to keep alive American hopes of a fourth World Cup.

But this was far from the straightforward victory many would have predicted as Spain provided a stern test of the defending champions.

"That's World Cup level grit right there. You can't replicate it, there's no way to express it or teach it," said Rapinoe.

"The game's only getting harder and more intense from here. Everybody is playing for their lives. That's the best part about it, honestly. I love it. This is the best stage."

The States had their first penalty in the fifth minute as Mario Leon caught Tobin Heath inside the box and Rapinoe sent Sandra Panos the wrong way with the kick.

But Spain quickly responded, punishing a defensive howler at the back. Sauerbrann was dispossessed by Lucia Garcia after an unwanted short pass from goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher, and when the ball fell for Hermoso she lifted a fine shot into the right corner of the net.

Rapinoe almost had the Americans straight back in front when she met a sweeping ball from Alex Morgan, and the pressure began to build again early in the second half but Rose Lavelle sent the best chance narrowly over the crossbar.

Instead, the States would need another spot-kick, their second coming when Virginia Torrecilla caught Lavelle in the box.

Morgan initially stepped forward, looking for a sixth goal that would put her clear in the tournament scoring charts.

But, after a lengthy video review which led to a six-minute stoppage in play, it was Rapinoe that took responsibility.

Panos guessed right this time as Rapinoe picked the same spot, but the result was the same with the goalkeeper unable to get down.

Rapinoe nearly had a hat-trick when her audacious effort with the outside of her right boot sailed narrowly wide.

In yesterday's other tie, Stina Blackstenius fired Sweden into the quarter-finals but they needed a penalty save from Hedvig Lindahl to edge out Canada 1-0 in Paris.

Former Manchester City midfielder Kosovare Asllani raced downfield and played an inch-perfect pass for Blackstenius to open the scoring with the game's first shot on target just shy of the hour mark.

But it was also Asllani who was penalised for handball eight minutes later, before Lindahl denied Janine Beckie from the spot.

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