Women's World Cup: Trump's tweets add heat to U.S. clash with France

U.S. president Donald Trump's response to Megan Rapinoe saying she will not go the White House should the USWNT win the World Cup has overshadowed what promises to be a thrilling game on Friday.

USWNT

The controversies don't seem to end ahead of USA's quarterfinal clash against France in the FIFA Women's World Cup on Friday.   -  Getty Images

It is the game which has all the ingredients to be the final of the Women's World Cup — the defending champion and favourite, the United States, against host France, seeking its first title. What's taken centre stage though, is a war of words between members of the US soccer team and President Donald Trump.

On Wednesday, Trump took aim at American captain Megan Rapinoe, who had said that she would not attend any title celebrations for the team at the White House.

While Trump's criticism of Rapinoe led to statements of solidarity from some of her team mates — it will surely not be lost on the French that their opponent is discussing its celebration plans just hours before a World Cup quarterfinal.

READ : Who is Megan Rapinoe, the US football star who has triggered Donald Trump

If France coach Corinne Diacre needs some additional material to fire her players up, then the recent suggestion from American defender Ali Krieger that the U.S.'s reserves could beat any of the teams at the World Cup, would surely feature.

“We have the best team in the world and the second-best team in the world,” she said after the group stage win over Chile, and while the strength in depth of the U.S. squad is indeed impressive, the French will provide their toughest test yet.

The host, however, has yet to truly shine, needing extra time to grind its way past Brazil with a 2-1 win in the previous round.

“Obviously, I know my players inside out. I know that we weren't 100 percent (against Brazil) and the objective is to hit that 100 percent for the next game,” Diacre said.

“Will this happen? I don't know. I don't have a magic wand. I don't have a crystal ball. I can't see into the future. But it's something that we're working on.”

READ : US President Donald Trump fires back at Megan Rapinoe: 'Finish the job!'

GRIT AND DETERMINATION

Diacre will look to her core of players from European champions Olympique Lyonnais. If centre back Wendie Renard, midfielder Amandine Henry, left wing back Amel Majri and striker Eugenie Le Sommer are all on top form, the Americans will have plenty of work to do.

Yet for all the swagger, the U.S. hardly looked like world-beater itself as it laboured to a 2-1 win over Spain, needing two penalties, with the second a highly questionable decision, to make it to the last eight.

There has been much talk of grit and determination from the only non-European team left in the competition, but those qualities alone will not be enough to ensure progress against a French side, capable of clever possession football.

“To me its going to be an amazing game, probably crazy and a lot of intensity, as it should be because I truly think this is the world game for women,” said coach Jill Ellis.

READ : Women’s World Cup: USA-France ticket prices jump to more than $10K

Yet the heat-wave that is hitting Paris, will mean Friday's match will likely be played in energy-draining, humid conditions and while the fitness of the American team is as impressive as its self-belief, a slower game could help the host.

Alex Morgan is the tournament's top scorer so far with five goals but the three-times champion U.S. possess a real threat from the bench with Christen Press and Carli Lloyd, players who can make an impact late in games.

Rapinoe's work-rate and experience in midfield is central to the Americans' approach and before her spat with Trump exploded she captured the essence of what this quarter-final is all about.

“I think this is the game that everyone had circled,” she said. “It's going to be a great match...these are the games you dream about as a kid.”

While England takes on Norway in Le Havre Thursday and Saturday sees Italy face the Netherlands and Germany up against Sweden, it will be the winner of the encounter at the Parc des Princes who will become the tournament's team to beat.

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