Megan Rapinoe Serene, Supreme in Guiding USWNT to Quarter-Final Win Over World Cup Hosts

From Paris – ​The tweet heard around the World Cup. Football magazine Eight by Eight posted a video on Tuesday – a short clip, nothing fancy – from the time they’d spent with Megan Rapinoe ahead of the World Cup.  “I’m not going to the fucking White House.” Rapinoe, known affectionately as Pinoe by fans, teammates and a good portion of people who cover the game, is no stranger to political statements – although it’s not clear whether this was actually meant to be one, or just a comment made in passing. Doesn’t matter. It blew right up.  Eight by Eight’s video had been viewed over 11,000,000 times in the 72 hours between it being posted and Pinoe leading her team out against France at the Parc des Princes. Countless news articles were written, not least when Donald Trump gave his own petulant reply on Twitter. “Megan should WIN first before she TALKS!” Well.  The USWNT took a big, big step towards the World Cup trophy on Friday night in Paris. After 72 hours of turmoil – around the camp if not within it – it took Rapinoe less than five minutes to kill the noise. A free kick whipped in from the left, not high and tempting as expected, but low and to the middle of the goal. It went through everyone.  Attendances were a talking point throughout the group stage and the early knockout games, but there were no such problems in Paris on Friday. An absolutely rammed Parc des Princes played host to 45,595 fans – American flags littered throughout, but decidedly partizan. The roar at kickoff was deafening, and the hollowness when Rapinoe scored the opener even more so. In the loudest game of the competition, the night was defined by two silences. One from Pinoe herself, tight-lipped through The Star-Spangled Banner as her continued protest against injustices in the American justice system, particularly against the black community. The second came ten minutes later, echoing around the stadium – Rapinoe with her arms spread wide, conducting the stunned stillness.  Conducting is what Pinoe does best. On the pitch, in press conferences, in interviews, she’s stood at the front with a baton with all eyes focused on her. In full flow, this US team plays her symphony. At her best, she can get the crowd to join in.  “I don’t really get energised by ‘haters’,” she said at full time. “I feel like there’s so many more people who love me, I get energised by that.” There was no silence when she scored her second with 25 minutes of the match to go, the largely American south side of the stadium letting their captain know how much they appreciated her finishing off the game right in front of them.  France were already flagging after an hour, five days after going a full 120 minutes against Brazil. Rapinoe’s goal flattened them. Passing which was already sloppy became more wayward. The Parc des Princes sang to Rapinoe’s melody.  “I’m motivated by people like me,” she explained, beaming and joking after the win. “People who are fighting for the same things, and I take more energy from that than trying to prove everyone wrong all the time. To be gay and fabulous during Pride month at the World Cup is nice. You can’t win a championship without gays on your team, it’s pretty much never been done before. Science, right there.” With four goals in the USA’s two knockout games, she’s joined Sam Kerr, Ellen White and teammate Alex Morgan at the top of the tournament’s goalscoring charts. Another night like this, and this will be Pinoe’s Cup.  It may already be. 

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