Megan Rapinoe didn’t get the Women’s World Cup send-off she wanted on Sunday. Instead, her last international play was a penalty kick that went over the goal. She is one of the most decorated players for the United States.
In extra time, the dynamic leader of American soccer came on as a replacement, but the game against old rivals Sweden finished 0-0 and Sweden won the spot shootout 5-4.
Three American players, including Rapinoe, missed their penalty kicks.
“This is the game’s counterpoint to its beauty. Rapinoe told Fox Sports, “I think it can be mean, and it just wasn’t our day.”
“I still only feel thankful and happy.”
Rapinoe was known for being reliable at taking penalty kicks, so she said that missing one in her last game felt like “a sick joke.”
She gave her teacher a teary hug on the field before reuniting with the rest of her team for the last time as the Swedish players danced to “Dancing Queen” by Abba.
“It’s been fun to play for this team and for this country. “It was a pleasure,” she said.
Rapinoe got the Golden Boot, Golden Ball, and Ballon d’Or for her part in helping the United States win the 2019 World Cup. Her personality and activity off the field boosted her star in a country where not many female soccer players have become familiar names.
She told reporters in Auckland, “I’ve always tried to play the game and do things the right way.”
“I’ve always tried to use whatever platform we have, and this one was built long before I got here.”
Rapinoe, who is 38 years old, didn’t play much at her fourth World Cup. Instead, she mostly served as a guide to a young and new U.S. team, since she was a key part of the team’s wins in 2015 and 2019.
In 2011, in the quarterfinal against Brazil, she set up Abby Wambach’s goal, which was named the best goal in the history of the event. This was her most famous moment.
Rapinoe wants to finish her club season with the OL Reign in the National Women’s Soccer League before she retires. After a career spent fighting for social issues, she has no plans to stay out of the public eye.
She was a strong speaker for the U.S. players when they fought their organization for pay fairness in 2019. This fight was still having an effect at the 2023 event, when teams from all over the world fought for better pay and conditions.
When Rapinoe looked back on the 2019 event, she saw that her on-field accomplishments and her causes were closely linked.
Rapinoe said, “It was almost like we had to step up our game to match everything we were saying off the field.”
“Without winning, you don’t get all of these mics, and you don’t get the stage without winning. Without winning, you don’t get the reporters, the eyes, or the fans.”
During the 2019 event, Republican and former U.S. President Donald Trump sent her angry tweets after video of her saying she wouldn’t go to the White House if her team won went viral.
Rapinoe also got a public scolding from U.S. Soccer in 2016 when she kneeled during the national anthem to show support for Colin Kaepernick.
In 2022, she and Simone Biles, who won an Olympic gold medal in gymnastics, were both given the Presidential Medal of Freedom, which is the highest citizen honor in the United States.
“As professional women’s athletes, we kind of know what injustices are, or at least we have felt them. So I think it makes it easy for us to be a partner in other ways,” Rapinoe said.
“That’s like the real legacy, and I think the most important legacy, of this team.”