PARIS, France — They knew the stakes. They knew the magnitude. They knew this match was the big one.
The United States women's national team players said nothing would distract them — and nothing did. They were outpossessed and outshot, but the Americans finished their chances and are going on to meet England in the semifinals of the 2019 Women's World Cup.
Megan Rapinoe scored both goals in the 2-0 victory over host France, played in front of a raucous announced crowd of 45,595 at Parc des Princes.
The clock read five minutes when Rapinoe curled a free kick toward the goal and the ball bounced through a sea of legs into the back of the net. The crowd went nuts. The United States had a 1-0 lead during what had been described as the biggest match of the tournament, a should-have-been final.
But France took control the rest of the first half, keeping the ball on the American's side of the pitch for lengthy periods. Le Bleues had trouble finishing, though. Of their six first-half shots, four were off target and two blocked. The U.S. also took six shots, five on target and one off.
The U.S. came out shooting at the beginning of the second half, too, but then fell off as France stole the ball, dominated possession and continued to control the game.
The crowd got especially loud anytime France took a corner kick. It seemed inevitable Les Bleues would score, but time after time, a shot went wide or long or was blocked. During one especially tense attacking moment, U.S. defender Kelley O'Hara was hit in the stomach and went down, stopping France's building momentum.
Then in the 65th minute, when it looked like the U.S. might be dispossessed again, Alex Morgan tapped the ball forward to a streaking Tobin Heath, who then crossed it through the center of the box, where Rapinoe came out of nowhere to finish for a 2-0 lead.
Ten minutes later, French fans held their collective breath when Heath scored a third U.S. goal, but Crystal Dunn, who passed the ball to Heath was ruled offside.
France picked right back up where it left off after the negated goal, charging into the American's final third time after time.
The hosts finally broke through in the 81st minute.
Gaetane Thiney sent a free kick to the far post, where 6-foot-2 centerback Wendie Renard waited for a point-blank header that sent the crowd into a tizzy. The score now 2-1, France continued to push.
Another French free kick went nowhere. An 89th-minute shot was saved by U.S. goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher. Through five minutes of added time, nothing landed and the whistle blew on France's World Cup journey.
The U.S. will play England in a semifinal July 2 in Lyon.