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Utah Royals in France: Quarterfinal Round

USA, England, Holland, and Sweden are all in.

France v USA: Quarter Final - 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup France Photo by Robert Cianflone/Getty Images

Norway v. England (0-3)

The first of three European battles in the quarterfinals, England struck first, and early in the third minute of the game early. Catching Norway in an abhorrent defensive shape, a run down the flank was sent inwards with two players wide open, including Jill Scott who easily slid it into the back of the net. Norway was able to follow with some purposeful possession, but nothing which was incredibly scary for the English defense. In the 29th minute, England looked very dangerous again, but Ellen White’s shot was denied by the post. England would dominate midfield position, and at other times, an attempt to work the counter in the 40th minute would get a second. Building out of the back and getting to the front in seconds, Nikita Parris found Ellen White in a matter of seconds giving her, her 5th of the tournament.

Playing for their World Cup lives, Norway wouldn’t open up the second half playing like it, in fact, they looked like a skeleton of the team that surprised Australia. Lucy Bronze knocked a third in the 57th minute, with a free kick from the side of the 18 rocketing into the goal. Norway would find themselves going against an English empty net on a stolen ball, but Stephanie Houghton would find herself in perfect positioning for a goal-line save. A few minutes later in the 69th minute, Norway would beat out the defense, but off her line, Karen Bardsley would hold onto the clean sheet. In the 83rd, England would get a chance for a third as Houghton went down in the box off a set piece being shoved from behind by Maria Thorisdottir, but the longtime 39-year-old legend Ingrid Hjelmseth would deny Parris from the spot.

USA v. France (2-1)

A game that was hyped months before the tournament and rightfully so, the two major favorites would collide in the quarterfinals, and barring them being on the same side of the bracket, would have likely met in the finals. French keeper Sarah Bouhaddi was tested early in the first minute by Julie Ertz but made the save. Following a small spell of possession by Les Bleus, the United States would strike first in the 5th minute off a set piece by Rapinoe as the ball slid past traffic into the corner of the net. The U.S would get another great look in the 16th minute off a marvelous through ball cutting across the field to Rapinoe, but Bouhaddi came far out of the box sliding for the save. Afterward, things began to settle down, as France gave themselves more patience with the ball and passed it around the midfield looking to create space. In response, Ertz dropped back to form a successful back five for the United States. In the 38th minute, Alex Morgan had a dangerous tackle with her studs up on Wendie Renard, trying to go for a loose ball but was lucky to get away with a warning. A minute later, Kelley O’Hara would body check Amel Majri and also avoid a yellow.

France started the second half strong dominating possession, but the United States squeezed, forcing France out wide where they weren’t able to do much. The French were able to take shots, but none on target. In the 58th minute, Le Sommer found herself with the ball on a cross, and Naeher on the ground, but instead of taking her shot at the far post, she went near and hit the side netting, ruining France’s best shot of the game. At that point, France had 60% of possession and 11 shots, none of which were on target. In the 65th minute, the United States pressed on the counter. Tobin Heath found Megan Rapinoe on a pass originally intended for Lindsey Horan, and she slotted it home. In the 75th minute, again on the counter, Heath found a goal of her own, but it would be called back for offsides. The next couple of minutes were met by an onslaught of the French attack, but Naeher came up huge not once, but twice, truly growing into form as the tournament progressed. Six-foot-two-inch center back Wendie Renard would grab one back off a set piece in the 81st minute to get one back for France. Ultimately, France would not be able to get a second despite the pressure, and the United States would advance to their eighth semifinal in a row.

Netherlands v. Italy (2-0)

Italy has been the surprise dark horse of the tournament, and Holland has underperformed and gotten in through luck. No matter the winner, a record semi-final appearance would be the reward for the advancing team. Despite the scorching heat, hot enough to require mandatory water breaks at 93 degrees, the Dutch did not start the game looking like a team that was going to pace themselves. The first 15 minutes where characterized by the Dutch dominating possession in the Italian half of the field, but they were unable to get dangerous chances and instead launched balls into the box. After the first quarter of an hour, the Azzurre responded with some chances of their own, not as many, but much more dangerous, ultimately unable to find the back of the net, thanks to some good work from defender Dominique Bloodworth and keeper/captain Sari van Veenendaal as well as misplaced chances from Valentina Bergamasci. The 30th minute brought a much deserved water break. The 37th minute would bring another chance for Italy, but a different Valentina this time. Valentina Giacinti would put the shot just wide, and the teams would head into half time level on 0-0.

Holland came out of half dominating with Vivianne Miedema getting a multitude of chances. Opportunities would follow other opportunities, but Danielle van de Donk would be denied by the woodwork. An absolute onslaught, the first 20 minutes saw Holland take 10 shots, including Sherida Spitse who would follow up van de Donk in hitting the crossbar. The goal that felt that it was coming for so long finally came from the head of Vivianne Miedema in the 70th minute. The pressure would continue, unrelenting and the coffin would be sealed 10 minutes later as Stefanie van der Gragt headed the ball into the net giving Oranje their second.

Germany v. Sweden (1-2)

With all the advancements decided except for this one, the winner would go on to play the Netherlands. Germany found themselves in a very dangerous free kick position just outside the penalty area in the 6th minute of play, but the potential was wasted and resulted in an easy save for Hedvig Lindahl. Sweden would get a few counterattacks, but nothing to generate too much excitement. Making amends in the 16th minute, Lina Magull would find herself cutting into space, getting the ball at her feet and putting in a beautiful half volley on the bounce to give Germany an early lead. The lead would not last long however, six minutes later, a beautiful long ball all the way from the centerback across the midfield would give Sofia Jakobsson an opportunity to slide the ball past the goalkeeper. Much like the earlier game, the 30th minute saw a cooling break, and afterwards, Sweden ran rampant in the final third, testing the Germans with their movement, poking holes in the poorly-organized defense. Ultimately, Germany would still hold onto the majority of the possession, holding a 57% advantage at halftime, but the tide looked to be turning.

The start of the second half was marked by the return of Dsenifer Marozsan, the German star of stars who had been absent after breaking a toe and missing the last three games. Despite the substitution, the second half could not have started any better for Sweden. Fridolina Rolfö took a shot with her head, but it being by the German keeper, it then fell to the feet of Stina Blackstenius who poked it into the back of the net for a 2-1 Swedish lead. The goal was early enough that Germany did not have to instantly panic, but they did put numbers forward immediately, but for the remainder of the half, the Swedish defense was staunch and held on to upset Deutschland.

Semi-finals

England v. United States, Tuesday July 2nd, 1PM, FOX

Netherlands v. Sweden, Wednesday July 3rd, 1PM, Fox Sports 1