Spain 1-2 USA: Women's World Cup last 16 – as it happened

The reigning champions set up a date with France in the quarter-finals after a nervy win over Spain

Read Caitlin Murray's match report

Closing with the mailbag ...

Oh my, the mailbox exploded. A few highlights ...

Michael Konopka: “If VAR has shown anything, it’s a strict adherent to the letter of the law, even if by a millimeter of distance or millinewton of force being applied when kicking an opponent.”

Mario S: “Hopefully the US will score at least one goal not through a penalty shot otherwise the critics will all claim the US should not have won.”

Even then, that call changed the game, and Spain had to chase from there. (Not effectively.)

Jill Ellis urges the team on.
Jill Ellis urges the team on. Photograph: Tolga Bozoğlu/EPA

Michael Waechter: “Why hasn’t Jill Ellis sent in Press and Pugh? Our left wing is useless (except for taking (undeserved) penalties).”

Jeff McCrum: “Spain is getting away with murder here, the ref has zero respect from them.”

Joe Pearson: “Corredera and Rapinoe swapping shirts was a nice touch”

Eric Gordon: “Could someone please explain to me why USA and France have ended up in a predictable quarter final showdown .. and not the semis .. were they not both convincing top four favourites from the get go …. So , now either the hostesses or the Legion of doom go out …. Not that as a Canadian I’m really complaining ..”

It’s not seeded, and this is an idiosyncrasy of the 24-team field. That said, if you have 32 teams, you may have even more group winners playing in the quarterfinals.

Courtney Shin: “Wanted to throw in my two cents that despite the controversy of that last penalty call, Rose Lavelle has proven herself a necessary force for her team. She had some peaches of passes, and her and Sam Mewis were clear US standouts for me. All this to say that Spain had an incredible, incredible game. I can only hope the US bring the same level of verve, intensity, and commitment to their next game against France. And maybe a few less fouls.”

Twitter is decidedly split on the penalty call.

Most worrying for the USA -- no goals from the run of play, and they didn’t even force a difficult save. But neither did Spain -- the goal was really their one good chance.

For the neutral, that was awesome. For US fans, that was torture. And the next three games might be the same way.

Thanks for following along with me. Check here for the match report shortly.


Positives for the USA ...

1. While Rapinoe and Morgan struggled, the latter because of some intense and sometimes illegal defensive attention, Tobin Heath was excellent.

2. On the few times the Spanish attack went down the left flank, Kelley O’Hara promptly stopped it.

3. Rose Lavelle played terrific through balls.

4. After her early mistake, Alyssa Naeher controlled her box very well and distributed with no problems.

Alyssa Naeher punches clear.
Alyssa Naeher punches clear. Photograph: Thibault Camus/AP

5. Abby Dahlkemper, the less experienced half of the center back tandem, made several important clearances.

6. Samantha Mewis was an imposing force in central midfield and played the ball forward quite well, perfectly complementing the reliable Julie Ertz and the playmaker Lavelle.

The tactics were bizarre at times. Crystal Dunn is a fantastic player, but when you’re protecting a 2-1 lead and she has been repeatedly beaten, why would you not sub for her? Perhaps because Casey Short, a true left back, wasn’t on the bench?

But they survive and advance. And France look anything but immortal.

Let’s finish up on the controversy, then get to the positives for the USA ...

The penalty call: Virginia Torrecilla of Spain and Rose Lavelle of the USA.
The penalty call: Virginia Torrecilla of Spain and Rose Lavelle of the USA. Photograph: Alex Caparros - FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images

There was contact.

There was not enough to make someone fall down. The word “trifling” is part of the referees’ vocabulary.

Final comment:

All that said, it was a poor game all the way around for the VAR crew. They could have reviewed a few more incidents in each box, and if Spain hadn’t delayed the penalty, that call might not have been reviewed at all.

Now on to the positives ...

FINAL: USA 2-1 Spain

It was more controversial than convincing, but let’s count the reasons the USA deserve this result ...

1. More possession.

2. A defense that took the edge off most of Spain’s chances after that early goal.

3. As soft as the second penalty call was, some other Spanish fouls went uncalled.

So now a quarterfinal between two favorites, the USA and France, who looked far from dominant in the round of 16.

The US players at the end of the match.
The US players at the end of the match. Photograph: Bernadett Szabó/Reuters


90+8 min: Spain try to switch fields, but the impatient Caldentey takes it at midfield. Finally a long ball into the box ... Paredes is down seeking a call. We’ve seen no indication of a VAR intrusion, not even after the ball is out of play.

90+7 min: Rapinoe, with her last kick, puts the ball out of play. Press comes in to replace her, and Rapinoe exits on the far sideline in accordance with the new Laws of the Game.

90+6 min: Ertz has dropped from defensive mid to the center of defense.

Rapinoe is fouled by Corredera and takes some time to adjust her socks. No question about the foul.

Christen Press is warming up. Naeher clears the ball long.

90+5 min: You’d think Ellis would slow things down and use her third sub. Not at the moment, while the USA keep possession down the left flank for a good long time.

90+4 min: Dahlkemper with another vital interception.

Replay shows Paredes wasn’t fouled on the prior play.

NOW the US defense are passing the test.

Abby Dahlkemper takes care of business.
Abby Dahlkemper takes care of business. Photograph: Alex Caparros - FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images


90+3 min: Long ball to Paredes, who has run up from center back into the box. She tumbles. Ref isn’t interested.

90+2 min: O’Hara slides cleanly to stop a counterattack. Dahlkemper heads a cross clear.

Spain really haven’t had a promising attack in some time.

Kelley O’Hara slides in to tackle Andrea Sanchez Falcon.
Kelley O’Hara slides in to tackle Andrea Sanchez Falcon. Photograph: Franck Fife/AFP/Getty Images


90+1 min: Heath falls on the right side. Spanish player motions for her to get up. Replay shows ... maybe impeding?

90 min: Lloyd gets the ball and is rather ridiculous taken out. That’ll only hurt Spain.

A replay shows an arm around Rapinoe’s neck on a previous play.

We’re getting seven minutes of stoppage time, much of it surely for the VAR review.

89 min: Sandra Paños holds the ball despite a collision. No foul, which is probably the right (no-)call.

88 min: Heath earns a corner, and Horan replaces Lavelle. THAT is a sensible substitution, as long as Horan doesn’t pick up a yellow.

Should be more.

87 min: Lloyd’s first contribution to this game is an offside call. Replay shows the call probably wasn’t right.

Lloyd is one of the two or three best clutch scorers the USA have ever had. This is not the situation for that.

85 min: Dunn and Rapinoe win the ball from three Spanish players, one of whom falls. Paredes responds by wiping out Rapinoe and getting a yellow.

And now Lloyd comes in for Morgan, which makes no sense whatsover. A speedy counterattacker, OK. That’s not Lloyd.

82 min: Correction -- the third Spanish sub is coming in now, with Caldenty replacing the goal-scorer Hermoso. Or not. Torrecilla is down, and she’s the one who’ll come out.

The previous sub was Falcon for Putellas.

Meanwhile, while straining to protect a 2-1 lead, the USA turn to ... Carli Lloyd. I don’t want to live on this planet any more.

80 min: We still have a good game in progress. Rapinoe goes close from a tough angle. Naeher punches clear in a tough collision. Morgan clears the ensuing corner.

Spain have made three subs now. The USA have made none. If ever there was a time to bring in another defender.

Roger Wallace: “As a US fan I hope they overturn this penalty. I think there have been a ton of fouls that should have been called on Spain, but this would just leave a bad taste in the mouth for everyone. So soft”

Henry Flory: “Enjoying the commentary, but “anti-homer” sounds right, if you’re going to call it a dive at least wait for one replay showing an absence of cleat-to-shin contact?”

I’ve seen the replay. Lavelle went flying.

Roger Theberge says there was contact but it was soft.

Tom Wahl: “You’re doing your job right when a homer accuses you of being anti-homer. Keep up the fair and open minded critique. Don’t fall into the trap of these fans who think the women’s team can do no wrong.”

Thanks. I look forward to being burned in effigy on Twitter later this afternoon.

The view from Canada:

GOAL! USA 2-1 Spain (Rapinoe pen 76)

The penalty is given after review.

The ref tells Rapinoe to move the ball back onto the spot.

Nearly saved but not quite. She went the same way as her first. Keeper guessed correctly, but it’s a low hard shot.

This game is now officially controversial.

Megan Rapinoe scores her second from the spot.
Megan Rapinoe scores her second from the spot. Photograph: Phil Noble/Reuters


Twitter is divided ...

Christina Unkel (Fox rules expert) says there was contact. Aly Wagner says Lavelle’s leg didn’t move.

Katalin Kulcsar is confronted by Spain’s Leila Ouahabi and Sandra Panos.
Katalin Kulcsar is confronted by Spain’s Leila Ouahabi and Sandra Panos. Photograph: Lionel Bonaventure/AFP/Getty Images



Spain does everything they can to delay the penalty, and with good reason. The VAR crew takes a full two minutes to awaken from their slumber and alert the referee. It’s a great game, folks. Wake up.

Slight contact from Virginia Torrecilla and Rose Lavelle goes down.
Slight contact from Virginia Torrecilla and Rose Lavelle goes down. Photograph: Phil Noble/Reuters


70 min: When will we see a sub?

I like the term “anti-homer,” by the way.

Graavarg says the USA lead the world in unsportsmanlike conduct.

And right on cue, Lavelle dives for a penalty. If this stands, that’s a robbery.


Henry Flory: “If I were to sub in an American attacker, I’d tell whomever is coming on to give something back to the Spanish CBs, who have been pretty damn rough, especially #4. Since the very opening, when Morgan was knocked down twice off the ball, it’s been non-stop. I suppose, if you’re someone who believes Barca’s dominance is built on a foundation of cynical fouls and dramatic falls, you wouldn’t be surprised...”

I think the USA have taken some dramatic fall.

Joe Pearson: “Stop being such an anti-homer. Morgan is being fouled whenever she even gets near the ball. Spain is playing very cynically and daring the ref to make the calls. She is bottling it.”

Feedback noted.

Mario S: “I have a bad feeling that the US is going to start pressing too hard. They are missing shots they should be making and Spain is going to get a breakaway with US defenders up in the wrong box.”

Quite possible.

Paul G. Frazer: “just have to say, if alex morgan is really struggling, shouldn’t she be subbed?? I am a bit worried about this one,”

You’re not alone.

On Rapinoe:

Brilliant career, but she’s flailing here.

Naeher collects a cross and boots it to the other box. Heath was within 20 yards, but that wasn’t dangerous.

65 min: The international broadcast shows Hope Solo again after that play. Correct me if I’m wrong, but Solo didn’t play left back.

And now Mewis goes somewhat close with a long-range shot. I need a hydration break.

63 min: CHANCE FOR SPAIN! Dunn is beaten again, and Guijarro gets a cross/shot past Ertz and Naeher that barely slides past the far post.

Patri Guijarro shoots past Julie Ertz and Alyssa Naeher.
Patri Guijarro shoots past Julie Ertz and Alyssa Naeher. Photograph: Tolga Bozoğlu/EPA


Mailbag ...

Roger Theberge wants the US to shoot while the sun is in the Spanish keeper’s eyes. Not a bad idea, and they’ve done so twice in the last few minutes.

61 min: Garcia slides past Dahlkemper down the left and cuts the ball back to the top of the box. The only person there is Ertz, who is not on Garcia’s team.

Isn’t it supposed to be hot? This is end-to-end and frenetic. I’m trying to get to the mailbag, but this game is too fast!

60 min: CHANCE FOR USA! Rose Lavelle’s 22-yarder just goes over the bar.


59 min: More passes in the US half than we’re used to seeing, and Mewis ends up charging forward with the ball. Spain win it, and Ertz slips on a challenge and wins a foul.

Please show more replays of these.

Fair enough.

If I may backtrack a little -- Rapinoe is one of those players who can destroy a team in an instant. But if that doesn’t happen soon, will Ellis go to the bench.

Probably not.

56 min: Now THAT’S a foul. Paredes slides through O’Hara on the edge of the box. And the ref ignores it.

55 min: CHANCE FOR USA! They played the ball to Heath! Lavelle sends it to her, and Heath shoots from a tough angle just over the bar.

54 min: Naeher is up to the challenge with a strong punch in traffic.

And Morgan falls again. If these are legitimate fouls, we’re long overdue for persistent infringement.

I don’t think that’s a foul. Morgan swings an arm first.

53 min: Free kick to the USA as Morgan tumbles again, this time a bit too easily for my taste. Look, if you’re going to say Corredera fell too easily on the Rapinoe slap, well ...

The USA lose possession and concede a corner.

50 min: The ref apparently missed a couple of off-the-ball fouls, including one in the box. Heath is hurt for a moment as she and Virginia Torrecilla slide into a challenge simultaneously.

Now Morgan is down, and Jill Ellis really should take her out.

48 min: Rapinoe and Corredera renew their 1v1 battle. This round to Corredera.

Apparently, the USA weren’t listening to me when I reminded them that there’s a right flank on the field, and Tobin Heath is there.

47 min: I’m going to be chuckling for a while at all the Fox commentators and analysts in a state of disbelief over the current state of this game. Fox already had to broadcast a men’s World Cup with no US team. Imagine if this game goes awry.

46 min: No subs mentioned. The USA get a free kick from ... call it 35 yards. Or 30 meters.

Heath takes it, which is not her strong suit, and Paredes clears with ease.



Disagreed on Lloyd, who’s basically a goal-poacher at this stage of her career. She’s not going to break down the defense in the middle of the field.

If I end up eating those words, fine. I didn’t have much for lunch.

Armchair US tactician says ...

1. Get the ball to Heath early. She’ll create the goal to break the Spanish resistance.

2. Consider bringing in Tierna Davidson at left back and moving Crystal Dunn up the field, replacing either Rose Lavelle in the midfield or (ducks from Twitterati who think that if Megan Rapinoe says the sky is green, then it’s green) Megan Rapinoe up front.

3. It’s not happening for Alex Morgan today. Pick any forward to come in.

Best players of the half:

Catch me if you can, says Tobin Heath.
Catch me if you can, says Tobin Heath. Photograph: Tolga Bozoğlu/EPA

USA: Mewis has more than justified her inclusion here, bossing the midfield and playing sharp balls forward. Heath has been brilliant every time she’s seen the ball -- maybe Jill Ellis should be telling the team to get the ball to her more often instead of assuming Rapinoe will always do something brilliant on the left.

Spain: Brilliant finish from Hermoso, but Garcia has been the persistent danger. Paredes also deserves credit for bottling up the center of the defense.



Paul Thompson (the guitarist?): “That was incredibly lazy on the US part, and an evidence of incredibly poor preparation. If a defender cannot handle the pressure in this situation, the preparation for the match was extremely lax.”

It was an appalling decision from Naeher to play that ball.

Roger Wallace: “I know it’s probably near sacrilege to say this, but despite the penalty Rapinoe has been just about the worst player on the pitch so far this game to my eye. Undisciplined several times, losing the ball or wasting excellent balls from Lavelle or others many times, horrible shot. If I were the U.S. I’d get Press or Pugh in there at the first opportunity.”

Hmmm. I don’t think I can agree with that, but it’s funny that the ball was rarely on the far side of the field. Tobin Heath has seen little of the ball aside from winning the penalty, and Kelley O’Hara has had naught to do because Spain simply haven’t attacked down that flank.

Joe Pearson: “Never in my life have I been slapped so hard that I fell down. Seems to happen to footballers all the time.”

That’s just because the refs can’t see everything. Gotta draw attention somehow!


The score is no fluke. The USA have had more possession, but Spain have asked many questions of the US defense, and they don’t have good answers.

Off to the restroom and the fridge, and I’ll be right back to argue with all of you from Twitter and the mailbag. (No, no -- I appreciate all of you.)

45+2 min: Morgan is fouled 25 yards out. Irene Paredes disagrees. Rapinoe and Morgan lobby for a yellow, more likely for persistent infringement than that foul alone. Refs never give persistent infringement, and they should.

The US play the free kick to perfection, with several players racing unimpeded toward the goal, but Rapinoe’s delivery is poorly weighted.

45 min: Better from Dunn, who takes the ball to the outside under pressure and wins a foul.

We’ll have three minutes of stoppage time, which will surely irk Spanish supporters.

44 min: Rapinoe’s corner is dangerous, but Sandra Paños punches it well, and the USA can’t control. Goal kick.

The foul call was certainly just -- yes, Twitter, it was. The yellow might have been harsh.

I miss Sam’s Army.

Meanwhile, Corredera is beaten in the corner by Mewis, whose cross is blocked out for a corner. Virginia Torrecilla took the brunt of it and is down.

40 min: Spain have the ball down the right, and the cross bounces in front of Naeher and, fortunately for US fans, bounds over the head of Alexia Putellas.

Did we warn you that this might be a tough game? Didn’t we?

38 min: Spain show intent, and Lucia Garcia has been a handful. Dahlkemper has to block a shot in the box, and Naeher alertly grabs a ball over the top to the onrushing forward-ish player.

YELLOW CARD! (Rapinoe 37)

The crowd may not like it, but even Megan Rapinoe isn’t allowed to slap a defender in the face, which is what she did to Marta Corredera. Rapinoe sportingly smiles and offers what appears to be an apology.

Megan Rapinoe battles with Marta Corredera.
Megan Rapinoe battles with Marta Corredera. Photograph: Robert Cianflone/Getty Images


36 min: Rapinoe and Mewis take turns taking inconsequential worm-burners from 25 yards that go well wide.

There -- here’s your Hermoso goal ...

Mailbag: Stephen Holliday rightly takes me to task for focusing on the US error rather than Hermoso’s brilliant lob.

Jennifer Hermoso celebrates.
Jennifer Hermoso celebrates. Photograph: Franck Fife/AFP/Getty Images

Also, Kyle Brown writes: “A Guardian commentary a few days back mentioned the US playing the rare 0-0-10. Are they at that again today?”

No, Kyle, you are wrong. It’s a 1-0-9, with Sauerbrunn back.

30 min: Rapinoe hits the ground on what appeared to be no contact whatsoever. Play on, says our ref.

Garcia gets the ball with roughly 40 yards of space in any direction. Her cross is collected by Naeher under a strong challenge.

Alex Morgan is down at midfield, and Spain are making a sub. It’s the luckless Losada, who was banged up earlier on a play we haven’t seen again. She’s in tears as Nahikari García comes in.

28 min: And again, the US defense have a nervy moment. The ball is played over the top to Garcia, who races past the US defense. Naeher has to collect it on her chest just outside the box. Oh dear.

Spain again send it through down the right, but the excellent Sauerbrunn interposes her body and wins it back to Naeher, who actually has time to play it this time.


27 min: More shakiness on the US backline, as Dunn plays a hospital ball back to Naeher near the side of the box. Her initial clearance clangs into an onrushing attacker, but they clean up.

25 min: Dunn commits a foul, and it’s a free kick to the USA. OK, then.

It’s cleverly taken to Mewis, who’s sprinting out of the center toward the left. Kelley O’Hara (right back) passes in the box to Julie Ertz (defensive midfield) who shoots over the bar.

Where, exactly, are the forwards supposed to go if the defense is 15 yards from the Spanish goal?

Art Levy writes: “Proud team USA supporter here, but it doesn’t feel right that Losada looks like she’s going to need Mickey to cut her, and we haven’t seen a view of Apollo Mewis’ clocking her.”

It’s OK -- the domestic commentary team assures us it was an accident. We believe them, right?

Meanwhile, a stat on the screen says the USA lead in passes, 95-37.

23 min: Now Spain have the ball ... oh, wait, no they don’t, and Lavelle runs straight down the middle. Ball is played out.

If it makes you feel better, it’s past 6 pm in Spain.

It’s stunning how often this happens at major events. Except in Beijing.

19 min: Rapinoe wins the ball, Mewis plays to the eagerly overlapping Dunn, whose dangerous cross goes through to Spain’s relief.

It’s safe to say Spain have not established their possession-based game here.


17 min: Quick free kick, another slippery run from Heath, and Rapinoe and Morgan each get a half-chance.

16 min: Morgan isn’t seeing much of the ball in the center, but Rapinoe is giving experienced right-back Marta Corredera all sorts of fits.

Abby Dahlkemper shoots/plays the ball from Carli Lloyd 2015 range, but Sandra Paños easily catches in mild traffic.


13 min: CHANCE FOR USA! Take THAT, Rose Lavelle haters. A gorgeous through ball gives Rapinoe a close-range shot. It’s saved but might have been going wide anyway -- the purple-haired veteran should’ve done better.

Spain’s goalkeeper Sandra Panos saves from Megan Rapinoe.
Spain’s goalkeeper Sandra Panos saves from Megan Rapinoe. Photograph: Alex Caparros/FIFA via Getty Images


Looks pretty full at the moment.

Jill Ellis and company are looking at a tablet on the sideline while trainers tend to Vicky Losada, who got the worst of a collision with Mewis.


GOAL! USA 1-1 Spain (Hermoso 10)

And the US defense flunks its first real test.

Naeher plays the ball to Sauerbrunn, who’s already under pressure from Garcia. The ball gets to Spain’s forward Hermoso, who chips it over the out-of-position Naeher.

Before you start -- Hope Solo has done that in a major tournament, too.

Spain’s Jennifer Hermoso chips in the equaliser.
Spain’s Jennifer Hermoso chips in the equaliser. Photograph: Marc Atkins/Getty Images


No controversy about any of that. Heath was just too much for Mapi León, the first player to earn a transfer fee in Spanish women’s soccer. She’s also interested in going into the tattoo business after her playing career. Well, she left a mark on Heath’s leg, but that’s probably not what she meant.

GOAL: USA 1-0 Spain (Rapinoe, pen 7 min)

Short runup, blistering shot, keeper guesses wrong anyway.

Megan Rapinoe slots in the penalty.
Megan Rapinoe slots in the penalty. Photograph: Robert Cianflone/Getty Images