Heartache as two penalties edge Spain out of the World Cup

The Spain players following their elimination.
The Spain players following their elimination. / J. C. Cárdenas / EFE
  • The USA needed two spot kicks, one given by VAR, to get past La Roja and into the quarterfinals

In the end it took two penalties, one in controversial circumstances, to end Spain's World Cup dream. After reaching the last 16 stage for the first time, La Roja took on USA, the most successful women's team in history, in Reims on Monday evening and gave a good account of themselves as they fell by virtue of that single spot kick.

Jorge Vilda's side went out with the intention to make life difficult for the three-time world champions: gifting them a penalty in the sixth minute was certainly not part of that plan. Mapi León accidentally brought down Tobin Heath and co-captain Megan Rapinoe made no mistake from 12 yards out.

Nobody could have predicted what would follow just 169 seconds later. A lack of conviction on US keeper Alyssa Naeher's pass to Becky Sauerbrunn was seized upon and the ball broke nicely for Jennifer Hermoso to bend it into the top corner. This was the first goal conceded by the US since the World Cup final last time out against Japan.

Naeher, visibly nervous after her error, transmitted this unease to her defenders and Spain were able to create their fair share of chances. In the second half, Patri Guijarro came closest as her strike from a tight angle grazed the far post.

However, just as in the first half, a penalty handed the US the advantage, albeit in a much more contentious manner. Rose Lavelle's delayed tumble after the slightest contact from Virginia Torrecilla required the help of VAR, but the decision eventually went in the US's favour. Rapinoe stepped up again and while Sandra Paños went the right way this time, the strike had too much purchase and nestled into the back of the net.

With just 15 minutes remaining, Spain pushed for the equaliser but played more with heart than head and only a vague penalty shout from Torrecilla worried the tournament favourites.

Spain go home with their heads held high, safe in the knowledge that they gave one of the best teams in the world a tough game.