England will take on the US in the semi-finals of the Women’s World Cup after the Americans knocked out hosts France.
In her first match since becoming embroiled in a row with Donald Trump over whether she would go to the White House should her country win the trophy, Megan Rapinoe struck twice to secure a place in the last four.
French goalkeeper Sarah Bouhaddi was left blindsided by the first goal – a free-kick from the left wing after five minutes, which zipped sharply off the turf and through several pairs of legs on its way into the back of the net.
The celebration made clear that it was a satisfying moment for Rapinoe, 33, who in the build-up to the match had urged her teammates to “think hard” about associating themselves with the US president.
Rapinoe has previously attacked Mr Trump for being “sexist” and “misogynistic”, and was one of the first athletes to join the national anthem kneel-down protest against police brutality started by NFL star Colin Kaepernick.
After team regulations were changed, the openly gay footballer now protests by refusing to sing the national anthem – but it was a newly-emerged video from earlier this year that got the president on her case.
In the footage, she is seen saying “I’m not going to the f***ing White House” when asked about the prospect of a visit if her team won the World Cup.
Some US commentators were concerned that the spat may become a distraction, but there was no sign it had affected any of the players on a humid night in Paris, with the temperature still standing at 29C (84.2F) at 10.15pm.
The match was played at the Parc des Princes at the end of the hottest day France has ever experienced, but both sides played at full throttle to ensure the tens of thousands of supports inside the stadium were entertained.
But it took until the second half for France to start creating some clear opportunities.
France’s best chance to equalise came in the 58th minute, when a deep cross found its way to Eugenie Le Sommer at the back post, but the time and space afforded to her was not enough as the striker dragged a powerful right-footed drive into the side netting.
Teammate Kadidiatou Diana raced clear just moments later but was denied by an outstanding block.
Before both of those chances, Bouhaddi had been forced into a fine double save to prevent the World Cup holders from starting the second-half as well as they had started the first.
US goalkeeper Solene Durand also had to be on her toes, making an acrobatic stop to deny forward Valerie Gauvin from heading home an equaliser in the 65th minute.
The French were made to pay for their wastefulness in front of goal seconds later, as Rapinoe ghosted into the penalty area unmarked to slot home her second of the night after a low cross from the right.
Defender Wendie Renard gave the hosts hope of a dramatic comeback with a towering header nine minutes from time, but an equaliser was not forthcoming.
It means the US will take on England in Lyon on Tuesday for a place in the final after the Lionesses secured a convincing 3-0 win over Norway in their quarter-final on Thursday night.
The other semi-final will be between Italy or the Netherlands and Germany or Sweden on Wednesday, with their quarter-final ties due to be played on Saturday.
France going out was also good news for Team GB ahead of the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.
England needed to finish as one of the top three European teams at the tournament to book GB’s spot in Japan and victory for the US means a semi-final place is enough to do that.
Source: SKY NEWS