U.S. head coach Jill Ellis has praised her side’s defeated rival France, saying that Friday night’s World Cup quarterfinal was the most intense match she’s ever been a part of.
The USWNT got past the host nation with a 2-1 win at Parc des Princes, as Megan Rapinoe’s two goals were enough to see her side through to the semifinals.
Unlike most U.S. matches, however, Ellis’s side ceded much of the possession and initiative to their opponent. France had 60 percent of the possession while taking 20 total shots, in comparison to 10 for the USWNT.
But, in front of a vociferous sold-out crowd in Paris, the U.S. held on and made the most of their chances. After the game, Ellis said the combination of the atmosphere and the opponent made Friday’s game unparalleled for her.
“That’s a fantastic team we played tonight,” Ellis said. “That is the most intense match I’ve ever been a part of. They have superb players, coaches, so it was very special.”
Part of France’s dominance in possession can likely be attributed to Ellis’s controversial decision to bench Lindsey Horan for a second consecutive game.
Horan, known for her aptitude with the ball among other qualities, entered the game in the 62nd minute as a substitute and Ellis explained that her benching was simply because she preferred Sam Mewis instead.
“Just playing Sam, that was kind of it,” Ellis said of her decision. “I think Sam is in-form, you saw that in the domestic games [before the World Cup] and Lindsey is as well, so the beauty is we have legs. You make those decisions every day as a coach."
That decision didn’t cost the U.S. on a night when the Parc des Princes was a cauldron of noise. It seemed like every fan – most of them French but a solid contingent of American supporters as well – was chanting, cheering and singing the entire game.
“What a feeling to be able to play in front of a crowd like this,” U.S. defender Kelley O’Hara said.
The night’s two-goal hero agreed.
“It was everything you want,” Rapinoe said. “Obviously we’re not at a home World Cup so [there was] a good healthy hostile crowd.
“Our fans were amazing, they screamed their little hearts out but they were no match for the Frenchies tonight. It was unbelievable obviously, there was so much energy in the stadium tonight.”