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In World Cup, Former Northwest Teammates Face Off

NANTERRE, France – When Portland Thorns star Tobin Heath takes the field for the U.S. women’s national team on Friday against France, she will see a familiar face on the opposing team.

France’s defensive midfielder Amandine Henry played with Heath on the Thorns in 2016-17 and the pair will see plenty of each other Friday night in Paris.

“I consider [Henry] one of the best players in the world,” Heath said in an interview this week. “It was amazing to play alongside her. I think she has this competitiveness that is really kind of familiar to what I’m used to and this very deep desire to win, and I think she’s a natural leader and I think it’s shown a lot in this World Cup.”

Heath and Henry have faced off against each other on the national level before, but the stakes have never been higher. The winner will earn a trip to the semifinals of the FIFA World Cup.

As anticipation has grown for the biggest match thus far in the tournament, tickets for the sold-out game have skyrocketed. The cheapest tickets are about $400, and some are listed online for thousands of dollars. If France wins the 2019 Cup, the country would be the first in FIFA history to hold both the men’s and women’s titles at the same title.

One French reporter asked Heath and U.S. midfielder Sam Mewis if they would be willing to just let France win the game given the magnitude of it.

“No,” Heath replied, as the press conference broke into laughter.

France defeated the US women 3-1 in a January friendly, outshooting them 14-8. They are the only team the U.S. women have lost to in their last 42 matchups.

“This is the kind of game that makes World Cups so exciting and for us as players … this is a game we’ve been looking forward to our whole lives,” Heath said.

The U.S. hasn’t defeated France in nearly three years but Mewis said the team is confident heading into the matchup, thanks in part to the legacy of the US squad.

“I mean I grew up watching these women play, I grew up idolizing them,” she said, “and to get to be here now and wear the crest and represent what this team has always stood for makes it feel bigger than me.”

Despite being over 5,000 miles away from the Thorn fan base, Heath knows Northwest fans are rooting for her and the team to bring home the trophy.

“Portland has the best fan base in the world,” she said. “I think it’s pretty cool to know there’s a bunch of people supporting us and supporting the girls on the team and I think that we always know we have them behind us.”

Heath also said she believes the Portland fans will be excited to watch her play against Henry and they will back the former Thorn player regardless of the outcome.

“Once you’re a Thorn you’re always a Thorn,” she said. “You’ll be supported forever.”

Heath and the U.S. team will take on France noon Friday on Fox.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Dylan Greene and Carmen Dittoe are students at the Edward R. Murrow College of Communication at Washington State University. They are studying sports journalism in France and Belgium this summer.

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