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.

Related items

  • Big Match Focus: Chelsea v Liverpool (Sunday 16:30 BST) Big Match Focus: Chelsea v Liverpool (Sunday 16:30 BST)

    Chelsea and Liverpool never take each other lightly and on Sunday both sides will attempt to put Champions League defeats behind them.

    Liverpool's winning start to the season came to an abrupt half in a 2-0 defeat at Napoli, while Chelsea suffered their first home reverse of the season when Valencia won 1-0 at Stamford Bridge.

    It is little over a month since Tammy Abraham's penalty miss handed Liverpool a 5-4 penalty shoot-out victory after a 2-2 draw in the UEFA Super Cup in Istanbul, and Frank Lampard will be desperate for revenge now he has settled into his role as head coach.

    Lampard is a central figure in the rivalry between Liverpool and Chelsea, having faced the Reds in three Champions League semi-finals and helped the Blues to 15 victories and four draws in the 31 Premier League matches he played against the Anfield club.

    But this Liverpool team could eclipse the achievements of any faced by Lampard in his playing career, and the Opta data shows just what Chelsea can expect from Jurgen Klopp's title hopefuls.

     

    STAMFORD BRIDGE A HAPPY HUNTING GROUND FOR KLOPP

    If Liverpool claim all three points on Sunday, Jurgen Klopp will become the first Liverpool manager to have secured three Premier League victories at Stamford Bridge.

    The omens appear to be in his favour, with none of Chelsea's last six managers having won their first league game against Liverpool, Carlo Ancelotti being the last Blues boss to triumph in his first encounter against them in 2009.

    Indeed, Chelsea have won just one of their last nine league games against the European champions (D5 L3) and that came in May 2018 when Olivier Giroud scored in a 1-0 home victory.

    They entertain a Liverpool side in the midst of the club's longest unbeaten run in the Premier League era (22 games), with Klopp's men having lost once in their last 44 top-flight outings.

    But Chelsea at the Bridge are not a side to write off and they will not be daunted by the visit of Klopp's table-topping side: the Blues have beaten the team who topped the Premier League at the start of the day 18 times – three more than any other side.

    HEAD TO HEAD: ROBERTO FIRMINO V TAMMY ABRAHAM

    Abraham has buried the memory of his night to forget in Istanbul by scoring seven goals in his last three Premier League appearances - including a hat-trick against Wolves last time out - and on Sunday he is gunning for a record held by former Liverpool favourite Luis Suarez.

    The only player to score at least twice in four consecutive Premier League appearances was Suarez, who achieved the feat in December 2013, and all eyes will be on Abraham as he aims to extend his streak.

    In contrast, Roberto Firmino heads to the capital having scored just two league goals this season, despite playing 400 minutes compared to Abraham's 331.

    Firmino has attempted more shots (19) than Abraham (15), and had more touches in the opposition box (36 v 21), but Liverpool have relied on Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane (4 goals each) for firepower.

    In terms of creativity, however, Firmino is having a fine season, contributing three assists and creating five big chances, whereas Abraham has yet to register an assist and has carved just one big chance this term.

    FORM GUIDE

    Liverpool head to West London with a 100 per cent record in the Premier League this season, having brushed Norwich City, Southampton, Arsenal, Burnley and Newcastle United aside with very little fuss.

    Chelsea have not had it so easy, suffering a 4-0 drubbing against Manchester United in their season opener before labouring to draws at home against Leicester City and Sheffield United.

    But Lampard's men played some of their best football under his management in their 5-2 demolition of Wolves last weekend and a first home league win of the season against Liverpool would be a huge statement from a young Blues team.

    Mason Mount sustained an injury against Valencia and is a doubt, but even without his dynamism in attack Chelsea will be confident of finding the net.

    Liverpool have kept just one clean sheet in the Premier League this season, in their 3-0 win at Burnley, although they have only conceded four goals – joint lowest in the division alongside Manchester United and Leicester City.

    HISTORY SAYS…

    Liverpool have visited Stamford Bridge 27 times in the Premier League and only managed one victory in their first 16 of those trips.

    But the Reds' last 11 games at Chelsea have been far more fruitful, delivering five victories, three draws and three defeats.

    History says there will be goals in this one: Liverpool have scored in all but one of their last 10 league games against Chelsea, while the Blues have failed to score in only one of their last 20 clashes with Liverpool in all competitions.

  • Lewandowski happy after scoring 200th Bayern Munich goal Lewandowski happy after scoring 200th Bayern Munich goal

    Bayern Munich star Robert Lewandowski revelled in scoring his 200th competitive goal for the Bundesliga champions.

    Lewandowski celebrated a milestone as Bayern opened their Champions League campaign with a 3-0 victory over Red Star Belgrade in Munich on Wednesday.

    The 31-year-old striker, who moved onto 199 competitive goals for Bayern in their draw at Bundesliga rivals RB Leipzig last week, poked home the team's second goal with 10 minutes remaining against Red Star.

    "We always had the game under control and played well, we upped the pace and created a lot of chances," Lewandowski said as he reflected on the Group B clash.

    "But we didn't score enough goals. We always tried to get forward. Sometimes we might have made wrong decisions, but these are little things. In the end it was only three goals, but it could have been five or six.

    "You need games like today to help with a good analysis, to see what you can do better. After the second goal, it got easier. I'm glad I scored again."

    Lewandowski – the highest-scoring foreigner for Bayern – is fourth on the club's all-time list, behind Rainer Ohlhauser (215), Karl-Heinz Rummenigge (218) and Gerd Muller (564).

    The Poland international has flourished since arriving from Borussia Dortmund in 2014, winning five successive Bundesliga titles.

    Lewandowski – who has also won two DFB-Pokal trophies and three DFL-Supercups – has topped the Bundesliga scoring charts for the past two seasons and four of the past six.

  • Hoeness hits out at Ter Stegen & DFB amid Neuer debate: It's as if he's won 17 World Cups Hoeness hits out at Ter Stegen & DFB amid Neuer debate: It's as if he's won 17 World Cups

    Bayern Munich president Uli Hoeness hit out at disgruntled Germany goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen, the German Football Association (DFB) and the media amid the ongoing debate involving Manuel Neuer, who he believes is the "much better" shot-stopper.

    Tension between Bayern keeper Neuer and Barcelona's Ter Stegen has been high after the latter voiced his frustration about the lack of international opportunities for Germany.

    Despite 22-time international Ter Stegen's fine form with the LaLiga champions, captain Neuer is Germany's number one and started ahead of the 27-year-old during the latest round of Euro 2020 qualifiers.

    Neuer – a World Cup winner with Germany having amassed 90 caps – accused Ter Stegen of putting himself before the team when he expressed frustration with the selection order, and his positional rival described the 33-year-old's criticism as "inappropriate".

    Hoeness fiercely weighed into the Neuer and Ter Stegen debate following Bayern's 3-0 win over Red Star Belgrade in their Champions League opener on Wednesday.

    "I think that this is a joke and especially the Munich press I think it's not okay what they do," Hoeness told reporters. "The West German press is heavily supporting Marc-Andre ter Stegen as if he won 17 times the World Cup. And from the South German press I don't see any support.

    "I think it's impossible to make such a topic public because he has no claim to play there [in the national team]. With the goalkeepers it's different than with the other.

    "He [Neuer] was the best goalkeeper in the world for many years. Now he was injured sometime but it was clear that if he becomes the old one again – and he is the old one again - there is no discussion if just him can be the number one. I hoped for more support from the German football federation. We frequently have troubles with DFB.

    "First of all, I remember how our three players were kicked out in a very bad way of the national team [Thomas Muller, Jerome Boateng and former defender Mats Hummels] and now this with Manuel Neuer is the same. I don't know how you cannot do something against it when a player goes public with a topic that he should only discuss with [head coach] Joachim Low. This is not okay.

    "We have our opinion and we won't let this happen in the future that our players will be damaged without reason because Ter Stegen is a good keeper but Manuel Neuer is much better. And has more experience. There is no discussion necessary. Nobody in the world can have doubts with Manuel Neuer being Germany's goalkeeper. Neuer can play as long as he stays healthy. He will always be the best. There is no discussion about it."

© 2018 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.