The 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup already promised to be the end of an era for the United States women’s national team in many respects, but it took on even greater significance in that regard when USWNT legend Megan Rapinoe announced on Saturday that he would retire at the end. of the 2023 season.
Rapinoe will not only be remembered for her years of activism and advocacy for various social justice issues, but also for her excellence on the pitch when the national team needed her most.
USWNT legend Megan Rapinoe to retire after NWSL season
Regardless of what happens at the 2023 World Cup, Rapinoe will retire as one of the most impactful and decorated women’s soccer players in United States history, culminating in her 2019 Ballon d’Or nomination. only American to win either the men’s or women’s edition of the prestigious soccer award.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at the highlights of Rapinoe’s international career.
2011: Abby Wambach’s iconic header setup
Rapinoe’s importance to the current USWNT World Cup dynasty dates back to a time when the dynasty seemed doomed before it even began.
With the United States on the brink of elimination, trailing Brazil 2-1 in the 122nd minute of the 2011 World Cup quarterfinals, Rapinoe, then 26, delivered a perfectly curved, long-range ball to Abby Wambach in the box. that Wambach headed the goalkeeper to tie and send the match to penalty kicks.
The USA won that shootout and ultimately finished as runners-up in the tournament, which at the time was the highest finish for the Americans at the Women’s World Cup since winning it in 1999. It’s a chilling exercise for USWNT fans to imagine. what would have happened. in the remainder of the 2010s had the team not built on the momentum created by their 2011 run, made possible only by Rapinoe and Wambach’s historic pairing.
2012: His first Olympic Olympic
Rapinoe’s now legendary assist in 2011 was just a sign of things to come regarding her ability to weave perfectly placed balls close to goal. A Olympic it’s a rare feat in soccer, when a ball finds the back of the net directly on a corner without misdirecting anyone along the way. However, that’s exactly what Rapinoe accomplished in the 2012 Olympics semifinal against Canada, and it wouldn’t be the last time he did it on the Olympics stage.
Rapinoe then scored another incredible and crucial goal later in the game, sending a long-range shot from the far post and into the back of the net to tie the match at two apiece. The USWNT would end up winning the match 4-3 en route to a gold medal in London.
2015: First steps in Canada
Few would consider Rapinoe the most Impactful member of the USWNT’s run to the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup title, their first in 16 years. That honor belongs to her longtime teammate, tournament Ballon d’Or winner (and now FOX Sports analyst) Carli Lloyd. But Rapinoe set the tone for the team in her tournament opener, scoring the USWNT’s goal with an acrobatic shot deflected by an Australia defender.
Rapinoe gives USA an early lead over Australia – FIFA Women’s World Cup 2015 Recap
2018: super spy
With the US men’s team failing to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, the most memorable moment in a very forgettable period of US soccer may have been when Rapinoe snuck into a Brazil group before a Set pieces during a friendly match at the 2018 Serie de Naciones Tournament.
2019: Scoring ‘all the goals we needed’
It will always be impossible to talk about Rapinoe’s career in the USWNT without talking about the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup. Sporting pink hair and a swagger befitting her status as one of the faces of the USWNT, the forward scored six goals, the tournament cap, and won the Golden Boot and Ballon d’Or for his efforts.
“He scored all the goals we needed him to score in 2019. He scored the penalty kicks, set pieces and high pressure moments,” USWNT midfielder Sam Mewis, a key player on that team, recently told FOX Sports. . (Mewis is not on the 2023 USA World Cup squad due to a knee injury.)
None of those goals was more memorable than Rapinoe’s free kick early in the quarterfinal against tournament hosts France, when after impossibly chipping the ball through a host of teammates and defenders to find the back of the net, he turned on the hostile home crowd and struck. a defiant pose that not only went viral but remains the enduring image of his incredible tournament.
United States’ Megan Rapinoe scores free kick for a 1-0 lead, strikes pose against France
However, it was far from Rapinoe’s only shocking moment that summer.
His two penalty goals against Spain in the round of 16 led the US to a 2-1 victory in that game. He did the same against France in the next round, following up his free kick and striking a pose. the blues pay when France inexplicably left her unmarked in the box later in the match.
Rapinoe then scored the opening goal of the United States’ 2–0 victory over the Netherlands in the final, converting another high-pressure penalty kick to cap a tournament she dominated.
2021: The sequel to the Olympic
Rapinoe’s second Olympian came under very different circumstances – played in an empty stadium in Japan after a year’s postponement of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games due to the COVID-19 pandemic – but it was no less brilliant.
Rapinoe is now 38 and is expected to come off the bench in Australia and New Zealand. But given his track record of appearing on the big stage, it’s easy to imagine that he may have another iconic moment or two up his sleeve from him in his last international tournament with the USWNT.
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