You just can’t keep Megan Rapinoe out of the news at the Women’s World Cup.
Then after the game, Rapinoe, according to several outlets including the Guardian in the UK, proclaimed: “Go gays. You can’t win a championship without gays on your team. It’s never been done before, ever. That’s science, right there.”
According to the newspaper, Rapinoe was responding to whether starring for the US during Pride month was extra special.
“I’m motivated by people who like me, who are fighting for the same things,” she continued. “I take more energy from that than from trying to prove anyone wrong. That’s draining on yourself. But for me, to be gay and fabulous during Pride month at the World Cup is nice.”
Her two goals helped eliminate France in what was the most anticipated match of this year’s tournament and US head coach Jill Ellis used her post-match press conference to heap praise on her co-captain.
“It’s almost as if it feeds her, she’s a big personality both on and off the pitch and I think she honestly thrives in these moments,” Ellis told reporters.
“There’s a never-say-die attitude, she loves and lives for those moments. She’s a big-time player and the bigger the stage the more she’s going to respond and I think she was fantastic tonight.”
The US made a blistering start on a warm evening in Paris with Rapinoe taking less than five minutes to score her first goal.
A constant thorn in the side of France, the 33-year-old continued to look threatening and was well worth her brace.
The passionate celebration which followed her second goal was perhaps a release from a turbulent couple of days.
“That was everything you want,” smiled the Player of the Match.
“That was such a big performance by our group. The focus defensively, the willingness and the discipline was tremendous. We were ruthless in our chances. It was a game we’ll never forget here in Paris.”
‘We have won over hearts and minds’
However, the defending champion was made to work hard for its win.
Cheered on by a raucous home crowd, France overcame a shaky start to make a real game of it and might have felt unfortunate not to have been awarded a penalty in the closing stages.
Despite the disappointment, head coach Corinne Diacre believes her side has captured the imagination of the French public.
Over 45,000 people packed into the Parc des Princes to watch the heavyweight clash and the atmosphere throughout was a testimony to the growth of women’s football.
“Yes, it is a failure on a footballing level,” she told reporters after the game, insisting she wanted to stay on in her current role.
“We’re a long way off our target but I hope we have retained something elsewhere.
“I hope we have won over the hearts and minds of the public and helped the women’s game go further and move into that next level.”
US manager Ellis said after the match that dealing with the bumper home support was half of the battle.
“That was the most intense match I’ve ever been part of,” she added.
“France is an incredible team. The surge from the fans was intense, like a tsunami. To have the flexibility and to know what card we needed to play at each particular moment, I credit the players.”
All eyes now turn to Tuesday’s last four fixture against England.
The Lionesses strolled past Norway in the quarterfinals and have had an extra day to prepare for the game.
“We’re on a mission. You’ve got to let the players enjoy the win because that was a gritty win for us. We’ll let them sleep, get back tomorrow (Saturday) and have a reset,” said Ellis.
“Again, we’re going to have less recovery than our opponents but that’s been the rhythm of this tournament, so be it.”
Phil Neville’s side has looked impressive so far in France and Rapinoe says the Lionesses are certainly capable of lifting the trophy.
“If you’re at this stage of the tournament and you’re not trying to win the World Cup then I’m not sure what you’re doing here,” Rapinoe said.
“They [England] are in great form right now, they had a totally dominating performance so they should feel confident.”