Megan Rapinoe’s two goals help U.S. advance to Women’s World Cup semifinals

PARIS — Controversy didn’t drive Megan Rapinoe, the big moment did.

Rapinoe scored both United States goals for the second straight game in the knockout stage, this time in the much-anticipated clash with host France to send the defending champions into the semifinals of the Women’s World Cup with a 2-1 victory.

“The media and fans and everyone bought into this being a final being played as a quarterfinal match. And it was. I feel like it was a great match,” U.S. forward Alex Morgan said.

Two days earlier, Rapinoe had been called out on social media by President 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 by 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.”

Now, the U.S. squad is headed to Lyon, France, to face England in a semifinal match Tuesday.

France had been vying to become the first nation to simultaneously hold the men’s and women’s World Cup trophies but fell short as their aggressive play, home-field advantage and flag-waving crowd that belted out La Marseillaise failed to faze the U.S.

Rapinoe, her hair highlighted with a pastel pink, scored on a free kick in the fifth minute that bounced through traffic and past goalkeeper Sarah Bouhaddi. In the 65th minute, Rapinoe blasted a cross from Tobin Heath past a diviing Bouhaddi. It was Rapinoe’s fifth goal of the tournament, a tally that includes both goals — on penalty kicks — in the Americans’ 2-1 win over Spain in the round of 16.

Fourth-ranked France pulled one back on Wendie Renard’s header off Gaetane Thiney’s free kick in the 81st. It was the 6-foot-2 defender’s fourth goal and gave the home crowd at the sold-out Parc des Princes hope.

“I mean, you have to give it up to the French team. I think they outplayed us for sure with the ball, but we were so good defensively, so strong. We hit them where it hurt. We took our chances,” Rapinoe said. “This team — unreal, unreal amount of heart.”

Coach Jill Ellis said Rapinoe’s night was typical of the outspoken 33-year-old from Redding playing in her third World Cup. “She’s just a big personality on and off the pitch and I think she honestly thrives off these big moments,” said Ellis, who coached her 125th match for the U.S., surpassing April Heinrichs for the career record. It was also Ellis’ 100th victory.

Because of the loss, France does not qualify for the 2020 Olympics. The top three European finishers at the World Cup qualify, which will be England and the two winners of Saturday’s quarterfinal matches.

“Yes, it is a failure on a footballing level,” France coach Corinne Diacre said. “But I hope that we have attained something elsewhere tonight. I hope we have won over the hearts and minds of the public. I hope this will help the women’s game to go further to move into the next level.”

Anne M. Peterson is an Associated Press writer.

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