After sweating it out against pesky opponents in the round of
16, the USA and France have advanced to the quarterfinals of the Women's World Cup on Friday at the Parc des Princes in Paris, where they will really sweat.
Temperatures are set to exceed 100 degrees this week across much of France in a "canicule" -- French for heat wave -- that could exceed the temperatures in 2003 when 15,000 people, most of them elderly, died because of the heat.
It was 90 degrees in Reims on Monday when the USA held off Spain, 2-1, though Megan Rapinoe put that in perspective with just a tad of hyperbole.
“It was hot,” she said, “But I mean, this is like 30 degrees cooler than any NWSL game we ever play in for like five months straight, so I think the heat wasn’t too much of a factor for us today.”
It was cooler in Le Havre, on the English Channel, Sunday night when France held off Brazil, 2-1, on overtime. But the French press turned up the heat with another round of critical coverage of Les Bleues, who have not looked good since the first half of their opening game against South Korea.
A month ago, few Frenchmen had heard of most of the players Corinne Diacre picked for the Women's World Cup, but within weeks everyone in the country seemed to have an opinion on whether Diacre should have benched starting center forward Valerie Gauvin for the opening game because she was twice late to team functions.
The glare of national attention has made the French camp very nervy -- L'Equipe reported that security guards started to take pictures of the license plates of the cars of those attending training camp -- and it showed on Sunday.
“In the first half especially, our group was very nervous,” Diacre said. “I asked them at halftime to play more freely."
Perhaps with that in mind, Rapinoe, who played the part of two seasons at Lyon, is looking forward to all the attention Friday's France-USA match can get.
“Hopefully a complete spectacle, just an absolute media circus,” Rapinoe said after Monday's win in Reims. “I hope it’s huge and crazy, that’s what it should be. This is the best game. This is what everybody wanted. I think we want it. Seems like they’re up for it. You guys of course are up for it, and all the fans. Maybe it’ll be a pretty even split between the fans in the stadium. We’ve been traveling pretty deep in this World Cup. So I hope it’s just a total s***show circus. It’s going to be totally awesome. This is what everybody wants, and these are the biggest games that you kind of dream about as a kid.”
Photo: JB Autissier/Panoramic/Icon Sportswire