PARIS — One day she is in the middle of a feud with the President of the United States and the next she is playing goal-scoring hero for the United States.
Not necessarily another typical day during the Women’s World Cup, but Megan Rapinoe certainly is anything but typical.
The USA captain reminded the world of that, striking twice in the Americans’ 2-1 quarterfinal win over France on Friday night at a loud and boisterous Parc des Princes.
“C’est magnifique, se soir,” Rapinoe said in French with a big smile. Magnificent performance, indeed.
The win propelled the three-time champions into the semifinals for the eighth time. They will meet England, a 3-0 winner over Norway, in Lyon on Tuesday.
It has been quite a week for the 34-year-old midfielder. Two days earlier, Rapinoe was 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,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.”
And that energy showed all night.
“She’s just a big personality, both on and off the pitch,” USA coach Jill Ellis said. “I think she honestly thrives in these moments. There’s a never-say-die attitude. She loves and lives for those moments. She’s a big-time player. She was fantastic tonight.”
So was the atmosphere at the stadium as the home supporters outnumbered the estimated 10,000 American fans by a 3-1 ratio.
“It’s everything you want,” said Rapinoe, who has scored the USA’s last four goals. “We’re not at a home World Cup, so it was a healthy, hostile crowd. Our fans were amazing. They screamed their hearts out. It was unbelievable. There was so much energy in the stadium.”
It was far from a pretty win as France seemed to be on a power play for most of the second half.
“France had a lot of the ball, but energized their fans,” Rapinoe said. “Such a big performance by our group tonight. We didn’t have the best night on the ball, but the focus defensively and the willingness and the discipline to do what we did tonight is tremendous. We were ruthless in our chances. Moving on to the next round, that’s all that matters.”
Actually, it was Rapinoe who was ruthless.
A minute after defender Griedge Mbock Bathy was awarded a yellow card for pushing forward Alex Morgan, the USA was given a free kick to the left of the penalty area. Rapinoe drilled the ball to the near post through a maze of players and past goalkeeper Sarah Bouhaddi for a fifth-minute lead.
An unmarked Rapinoe slotted home Tobin Heath’s right-wing feed in the 65th minute. That turned out to be the winning goal because French center back Wendie Renard headed in a free kick from six yards in the 81st minute.
France came in waves at the Americans but they held firm, with goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher making key saves down the stretch.
U.S. left back Crystal Dunn of Rockville Centre, a natural attacker, battled with forward Kadidiatou Diani on the right flank, giving away inches and pounds.
“Dunnie, she was just on point,” Ellis said. “Her 1 v 1 defending. She watched films, she studied. She’s very diligent. I chatted with her a couple of days ago. I said, ‘Dunnie, you’ve grown so much, you are so ready for this moment.’ I thought she stepped up big time. It was as good as I’ve seen her in terms of her defending play.”
Said Dunn: “I’m exhausted. Diani is an amazing forward and she definitely gave me a run for my money tonight.”