Yesterday was the day. The match everyone in the world had been waiting for in the 2019 Women’s World Cup took place when the United States took on hosts France at the Parc des Princes in Paris. Throughout the week, once France got past Brazil and the USWNT beat Spain, the talk was on the match from locals and Americans fans traveling for the match. The hottest question of the week: “Do you have any extra tickets?” With the host nation and the largest set of traveling fans, ticket prices soared to well over $11,000 for those looking to be one of the 45,595 inside the stadium when the game started.
Fast forward to yesterday, and fans were taking in the pregame at Trinquet Village, the same location the American Outlaws had for the pregame before the match against Chile. With temperatures hovering around 95 degrees and the heat index close to 110, fans arrived later than usual but were still in the spirt and ready to party.
An estimated 2,500 fans entered Trinquet Village to eat and drink, enjoy music, and prepare for one of the most anticipated matches of the summer. Then, it was time for the march. Hundreds of fans who did not take in the pregame with the American Outlaws showed up to participate in the march to the match. Paris police, in response to the number of fans that the march attracted and in an attempt to link up with the French supporters group, Irrésistibles Français, to do a unity march along the way. While the groups weren’t able to coordinate that portion of the march, the march began around 7:15pm. Somehow, the march was bigger than the previous one in Paris.
As the march hit the Avenue de Versailles, the number of people swelled to close to 6,500 fans, a wall of noise that brought people out of their homes, stores, and cafes to watch. The streets of Paris were once again covered in red, white, and blue. Despite the fact they were taking on the host nation, French fans applauded the massive sea of Americans as they ventured slowly down the avenue towards the Porte de Saint Cloud.
The American crowd was loud as they made the final turn towards the Parc des Princes and then entered the stadium. High fives were going around to anyone wearing an American jersey or shirt as everyone walked into the Parc des Princes.
Inside, the atmosphere was electric. Those who were there may tell you that the atmosphere rivaled any match in World Cup history. They’re right. The atmosphere was unlike anything I’ve ever seen, and I’ve been to quite a few matches for the men and the women. It was insane. French fans going nuts, American fans going nuts. And this was an hour before the match. The national anthems provided both sets of fans another chance to fill the stadium with deafening noise. Once the match started, the action on the field picked up to match the intensity in the stands. When Megan Rapinoe scored her first goal, the French fans fell silent for the first time as American fans went wild and Megan Rapinoe ran to the corner to give us this iconic celebration:
It was simply perfect. France and the USWNT went back and forth, on the field and in the stands. “U-S-A!” was met with “Allez Les Bleues!” as most fans stood the entire match and jumped up and down in support of their team. On the USWNT’s second goal, the buildup was terrific. Once the ball was passed by Alex Morgan out wide for Tobin Heath, before she even touched the ball, I put my finger in the air and yelled “YES!”...because I knew we were about to score. I continued to hold my finger up as Heath pushed forward and sent the ball across the box to Rapinoe, just saying “YES! YES! YEEEES!” over and over. Rapinoe punches the ball home, and as the American fan section entered bedlam, the emotions overcame me. Through a voice completely shot due to leading a march and the chants inside, I broke down and started crying. I was so dehydrated, few tears even were able to come out. But, what a beautiful moment that was as fans hugged each other and gave high fives as they exulted their praise for the play they had just witnessed. The emotions were high, and a 3rd goal by Tobin Heath that was ruled offside didn’t subdue the emotions for American fans around the stadium.
A Wendie Renard goal gave the French fans hope, as their chants got louder as they hoped for a late equalizer. In the end, it wasn’t meant to be for the hosts. The final whistle sounded and the American fans exploded. The USWNT were through to the semifinals, they were going to Lyon, and they took out arguably the best remaining team. It was one of the best matches in World Cup history, and for my money, I’d put that atmosphere up against any match I’ve ever attended. It was the match we all wanted, and the ladies on the field gave us everything we asked for and more. Fans took to the streets of Paris to celebrate the win, with French fans shaking our hands and offering their congratulations.
Tomorrow, the Tour de Four rolls on to Lyon. A semifinal date with England awaits on Tuesday. Get ready, Lyon...the Americans are coming.