PARIS (Reuters) - Paris’ Parc des Princes stadium can hold 48,000 people at full capacity and every seat is expected to be taken on Friday night as hosts France take on the U.S. defending champions in a highly anticipated women’s World Cup quarter-final.
Amid a heatwave in France — with temperatures hitting a record-high 45 degrees centigrade — supporters of the U.S. team and Les Bleues were gearing up for a big game.
“It’s a finals-worthy match,” 27-year-old Ashley Ross from Philadelphia, Pennsylvannia, said as she and friends squeezed in a museum visit before the 9 p.m. (1900 GMT) showdown.
Ross bought her ticket immediately after the draw was made in December, betting that France and the United States would both top their groups and end up facing each other.
A few hours before kick-off, she described herself as “nervous, but absolutely thrilled to be here”.
Ross and dozens of other fans, young and old, were visiting a small museum in the district of Les Halles where a host of World Cup memorabilia, from former U.S. goalkeeper Hope Solo’s gloves to the trophy to be lifted on July 7, were on display.
As two American girls posed in front of the golden ball, a French fan underlined how big Friday’s game is for both sides.
“It’s really an early final,” said Elise Santal, 23. “I think it’s going to be, from a media point of view, incredible for women’s football.
“The atmosphere is going to be unbelievable.”
Tickets sold out long ago, but the secondary market is hot online, with some platforms offering seats for several hundreds of euros and in one case a single seat for 10,000 euros ($11,383).
On Twitter, the hashtag #FRAUSA is trending at third place in Paris, while #FiersdetreBleues (ProudtobeBleues) was sixth.
Prominent U.S. fan-club “American Outlaws” tweeted of the game: “They don’t get any bigger than this”. The tweet continued: “In France 1/4 finals... history is going to be made.”
No matter who wins, the match is expected to draw even more attention to women’s soccer. Viewing figures for the tournament have been far higher than expected, with some matches drawing 11 million viewers in France and even more abroad.
“Before, the women’s game was not really watched,” Mathilde Retourne, a young French fan. “It’s really this year where it’s starting to be supported as much as the men’s.”
Retourne said attention would only increase if Les Bleues managed to take out the American side and emulate the men’s national team in capturing the World Cup.
“It’s going to be tight. We’ll see,” she said.
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Reporting by Rachel Joyner; Editing by Luke Baker and Christian Radnedge