PARIS - Controversy didn’t drive Megan Rapinoe, the big moment did.
Rapinoe turned turmoil into triumph Friday night, scoring twice in the much-anticipated clash with host France to send the defending champion United States into the semifinals of the Women’s World Cup with a 2-1 victory.
Two days earlier, Rapinoe had been called out on social media by President Donald Trump after video surfaced of her saying she wouldn’t visit the White House if the United States won the tournament, and the critics pounced. Rapinoe shrugged them off by facing the crowd with her arms raised in celebration after both her goals.
“I don’t really get energized by haters or all that, I feel there are so many more people that love me,” she said with a laugh. “I’m more energized by that.”
Now the top-ranked Americans are headed to Lyon to face No. 3 England in a semifinal match Tuesday.
France had been vying to become the first nation to simultaneously hold the men’s and women’s World Cup trophies but fell well short as its aggressive play, home-field advantage and flag-waving crowd that belted out “La Marseillaise” failed to faze the ever-confident U.S. team.
Rapinoe, her hair highlighted with a pastel pink, scored on a free kick in the fifth minute that bounced between French players and past goalkeeper Sarah Bouhaddi. She did it again in the 65th minute after blasting a cross from Tobin Heath that Bouhaddi dove for but couldn’t stop. It was her fifth goal of the tournament.
Fourth-ranked France pulled back on Wendie Renard’s header off Gaetane Thiney’s free kick in the 81st. It was the 188-cm defender’s fourth World Cup goal and gave the home crowd at the sellout Parc des Princes hope.
“I mean, you have to give it up to the French team. I think they outplayed us for sure with the ball, but we were so good defensively, so strong. We hit them where it hurt. We took our chances,” Rapinoe said. “This team — unreal, unreal amount of heart.”
Rapinoe was caught up in a controversy this week when a video surfaced of her using an expletive while vowing not to visit the White House.