Rapinoe and USA leave France having spoken, and won

By Sports Desk July 07, 2019

The most powerful man in the world urged her to speak only after she had finished the job, but on Sunday Megan Rapinoe became a Women's World Cup winner again having done it her way.

Jill Ellis' United States side beat Netherlands 2-0 in the final to become the first American team to retain the trophy and, naturally, it was Rapinoe, the most prominent figure at the tournament, who was front and centre.

USA were held at bay for over an hour against a robust Dutch team. Goalkeeper Sari van Veenendaal was outstanding, brilliantly thwarting Julie Ertz, Sam Mewis and Alex Morgan - twice - in the first half.

But when Stefanie van der Gragt's studs caught Morgan's side, USA were awarded a penalty following a VAR review. Rapinoe had the chance to alleviate the tension and put her country on course for that winning part US President Donald Trump placed as a feeble pre-requisite for holding an opinion.

And so, in the 61st minute, Rapinoe stepped up and, with unnerving coolness, finally beat Van Veenendaal.

She ran over to the corner and delivered her signature 'Are You Not Entertained?' pose. It will be the defining image of this World Cup, which, despite the Europeans' emergence, remains in American hands after Rose Lavelle added a brilliant second eight minutes after Rapinoe's penalty.

It seems fitting that the United States ended up winning a tournament where the question, for once, has not been, 'How do we get people interested in women's football?' but, 'How do we build on it?'

USA are, after all, at the forefront of that push, with players such as Rapinoe driving the agenda on numerous issues, from LGBT rights to racial equality, while attracting audiences most other nations can only dream of.

On Saturday Rapinoe said "so much of what we have to shoulder all of the time is heavy", explaining that the football pitch gave USA players a chance to "be free", which is something not all who protest are afforded.

Colin Kaepernick, the NFL quarterback who took his team to the Super Bowl but has been out of the league for three years having knelt during the American anthem, never got another chance to "win first before he talks".

Tommie Smith and John Carlos, the two sprinters who raised their fists on the podium at the 1968 Olympics, were ostracised upon their returns to America despite winning first and then talking.

Rapinoe knew all of that and yet, admirably, she still spoke up for what she believed in. She saw the president tell her to button up on Twitter and responded with three goals her next two games on the biggest stage.

The 34-year-old did plenty of talking in France and had the final word in Lyon, finishing the job - as always - on her own terms.

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