The dreams of a historic third-straight World Cup came to an abrupt end for US Women’s National Team (USWNT) on Tuesday with an excruciating penalty shootout loss to Sweden.
Megan Rapinoe, 38, played her final match for the USA in the heart-breaking loss in Melbourne, Australia. The emotion on the pitch—tears, palpable grief— contrasted sharply with the internet fury sparked by Rapinoe’s behavior after missing her penalty.
US soccer fans reacted with incredulity to Rapinoe’s laughter as she jogged back to the halfway line after the miss. The immediate reaction of the star forward was, to some, a reflection of her team taking the match too lightly.
“I don’t see what’s funny about this?” one fan wrote on Twitter in response. “The laughing shows how much this team took this as a joke. So much for being a role model for the rest of the team.”
Rapinoe addressed the situation briefly after the game, simply saying, “It’s a sick, sick joke. I’ve never hit it over, when I miss they are saved.”
Rapinoe exits the international stage two World Cups later – a true star for a team that has divided some of its fanbases during the tournament in Australia and New Zealand. Throughout the tournament, several USWNT players repeatedly refused to sing the national anthem before their games.
FOX Soccer analyst Alexi Lalas alluded to the controversy in his post-game reaction: “I hope this team can unite Americans moving forward.”
Coach Vlatko Andonovski was proud of his team despite the devastating loss: “We showed grit, resilience, fight and bravery. We showed everything that we could to win the game and unfortunately soccer can be cruel sometimes.”
USWNT had failed to display the dominance expected of them prior to Tuesday’s game. The team started their tournament campaign with an impressive 3-0 win over Vietnam but had to settle for ties in the following two games.
Star forward Alex Morgan summed up the team’s feeling post-game, saying, “It doesn’t feel great.”
As Rapinoe plays her final match for USWNT, we hope that the team will come together and create a more united atmosphere both on and off the pitch. Despite the cruel ending to the historic World Cup run, the entire team can be proud of their resilient spirit and commitment to the game.