PARIS, France – Megan Rapinoe basked in the limelight as her brace downed France at the women's World Cup on Friday, June 28 (Saturday, June 29, Philippine time) and sent the United States into a huge semifinal showdown with England two days after her public spat with Donald Trump.
The timing was perfect for the 33-year-old after she dominated the headlines in the build-up to this match, but also because her two goals that gave the Americans a 2-1 win in an intense quarterfinal at the Parc des Princes came the day before the Gay Pride march in the French capital.
"Go gays! You can't win a championship without gays on your team, it's pretty much never been done before," joked Rapinoe to reporters after the win. She came out as gay shortly before helping the US win the 2012 Olympics.
The spotlight was on Rapinoe after Trump lambasted her on Wednesday for saying she wouldn't visit the White House if the US team were invited, and she responded by netting a brace which saw her join teammate Alex Morgan, Australia's Sam Kerr and England's Ellen White as the tournament's leading scorers with five goals.
However, she insisted that she felt no particular satisfaction in emphasizing her own importance to the USA team with a second match-winning performance in a row after her penalty double against Spain in the previous round.
"I think I'm motivated by people who like me and people who are fighting for the same things, and I take more energy from that than from trying to prove everyone wrong all the time," she said.
"So yeah, to be gay and fabulous during pride month at the World Cup is nice."
Rapinoe was not wearing the captain's armband like she was against Spain, but she took the lead from the start in her position wide on the left of the attack.
She was involved almost straight from kick-off, charging down her flank and skipping past two defenders before laying on Julie Ertz to test Sarah Bouhaddi.
With 5 minutes on the clock she flashed a powerful free kick through a sea of bodies and past a bamboozled Bouhaddi, giving her side the lead and a basis from which to hold off the hosts.
She scored her 49th international goal in the 65th minute, charging onto Tobin Heath's smart pull-back to finish expertly – a goal that turned out to be crucial thanks to a stirring final 10 minutes from France following Wendie Renard's thumping header to make it 2-1.
"'Pino' is probably the bravest person I know. She's fighting for everything she believes in and then she's backing it up on the field," said teammate Samantha Mewis.
"It's such an honor to be her teammate. I back her 100% and I think that a World Cup is about coming up big in a big moment and that's exactly what she's doing."
As they aim to retain their title and win a fourth World Cup, the USA now goes to Lyon to face an England side that reached the last 4 after thumping Norway 3-0 on Thursday.
England made the semifinals 4 years ago only to lose 2-1 to Japan because of a Laura Bassett own goal in the 92nd minute. However, Phil Neville's team is in good form heading into Tuesday's showdown.
"I think that as a federation they (England) have put a lot of money behind that program and they've been on the rise," said Rapinoe, who has been a key voice in the US women's team's fight for pay equality that has seen them file a lawsuit against their own federation for gender discrimination.
"They've been right there, they're such a strong squad and have had really good young players coming up for 4 years now so it's no surprise that team is there." – Rappler.com