Megan Rapinoe struck twice as the United States beat hosts France 2-1 in the women’s World Cup quarter-finals at the Parc des Princes to set up a last-four clash with England.
Rapinoe was involved in a spat with US President Donald Trump during the build-up to the game after footage emerged of the Reign FC player saying “I’m not going to the f—ing White House,” in an interview filmed earlier this year.
Mr Trump responded with a series of tweets – in which he tagged an account not related to Rapinoe – saying she should not disrespect the country, the White House or the flag.
Rapinoe has made a public stance of kneeling for the anthem to protest police discrimination against minorities in support of former NFL player Colin Kaepernick, who earlier this year settled his collusion grievance against the league after failing to land a spot on a roster since his highly publicised protest.
“Being a gay American, I know what it means to look at the flag and not have it protect all of your liberties,” she said in 2016.
“It’s important to have white people stand in support of people of colour on this.
“We don’t need to be the leading voice, of course, but standing in support of them is something that’s really powerful.”
Women’s soccer player, @mPinoe, just stated that she is “not going to the F…ing White House if we win.” Other than the NBA, which now refuses to call owners, owners (please explain that I just got Criminal Justice Reform passed, Black unemployment is at the lowest level…
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 26, 2019
….invited Megan or the team, but I am now inviting the TEAM, win or lose. Megan should never disrespect our Country, the White House, or our Flag, especially since so much has been done for her & the team. Be proud of the Flag that you wear. The USA is doing GREAT!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 26, 2019
Rapinoe no longer kneels for the national anthem after team regulations changed but instead refuses to sing it.
When asked before the game whether the media focus would destabilise the team, Rapinoe and coach Jill Ellis said that the scrutiny served to focus the team even more.
“I’m not worried about destabilising the dressing room,” Rapinoe said.
“We have an incredibly strong dressing room and we are very open with each other.
“If anything, it fires everyone up a bit more.”
‘An unreal amount of heart’
The evidence showed that the US were plenty fired up, again scoring early to put the French on the back foot.
Rapinoe opened the scoring in the fifth minute with a low-struck free-kick from the left that went in untouched through a crowd of players.
The US have scored in the opening 12 minutes of every game in this tournament and they also could draw on the fact that they have never lost after taking the lead in a World Cup game.
— U.S. Soccer WNT (@USWNT) June 28, 2019
The 33-year-old Rapinoe added her team’s second goal in the 65th minute and although France got back in the game with a Wendie Renard header in the 81st, the US held firm to maintain its record of never missing out on the World Cup semi-finals.
A night which showed just how far the women’s tournament has grown, with thousands of travelling American fans in a sell-out 45,000 crowd, ended in disappointment for the hosts.
France’s departure at the quarter-final stage continued a run in which every host nation has exited the tournament at the quarter final stage – with the exception of the US in 1999 and 2003.
Corinne Diacre’s French team played attractive, passing football but, while their style was more contemporary and aesthetically pleasing, it was the killer edge of the experienced Americans that proved decisive.
“Seeing everyone rise to the occasion is inspiring every day”
What a night for @mPinoe!
— FIFA Women's World Cup (@FIFAWWC) June 28, 2019
“You have to give it up to the French team. They outplayed us for sure with the ball today,” Rapinoe said.
“But we were so good defensively, so strong. We hit them where it hurt, we took our chances.
“This team has an unreal amount of heart.”
Consolation header for France
Heart and brains too.
France’s hopes of turning the match around depended on it opening up the American defence with its clever passing, but while it impressed in build-up play it created few openings.
France right winger Kadidatou Diani put left-back Crystal Dunn under intense pressure with her frequent dribbles down the flank, while on the left Amel Majri pushed progressively into an advanced role to the consternation of right-back Kelly O’Hara.
Yet despite all that promising play in the wide areas, the French struggled to provide striker Eugenie Le Sommer with real quality service and, having survived a wave of pressure after the interval, Rapinoe struck again.
Alex Morgan’s clever through-ball put Tobin Heath into space on the right and her low cross, pulled back behind the French line, found the hovering Rapinoe who slotted home her fifth goal of the tournament with confidence.
Heath’s effort that would have wrapped up the game was ruled out for offside, and France responded with one last push.
With nine minutes of normal time remaining, the home side finally got some reward when Renard rose above the American defence, whose marking was unusually sloppy, to glance in a consolation header from a Gaetane Thiney free-kick.
Next up for the holders are England, which defeated Norway 3-0 on Friday.