Sam Newman compares US women’s star Megan Rapinoe to a dog
CONTROVERSY didn't drive Megan Rapinoe, the big moment did.
Rapinoe turned turmoil into triumph on Saturday (AEST), scoring twice in the much-anticipated clash with host France to send the defending champion USA into the semi-finals of the Women's World Cup with a 2-1 victory.
Two days earlier, Rapinoe had been called out on social media by President Donald Trump after video surfaced of her saying she wouldn't visit the White House if the US 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 energised by haters or all that, I feel there are so many more people that love me," she said with a laugh. "I'm more energised by that."
But if she needs any fuel for the semi-finals, a quick glance on social media should do it. Even ex-AFL star Sam Newman was piling on, declaring "Megan has all the characteristics of a dog - except loyalty."
Rapinoe, her hair highlighted with a pastel pink, scored on a free kick in the fifth minute that bounced between French players and past goalkeeper Sarah Bouhaddi. She did it again in the 65th minute after blasting a cross from Tobin Heath that Bouhaddi dove for but couldn't stop. It was her fifth goal of the tournament.
Fourth-ranked France pulled back on Wendie Renard's header off Gaetane Thiney's free kick in the 81st. It was the 181cm defender's fourth World Cup goal and gave the home crowd at the sellout 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."
After Rapinoe's video surfaced earlier in the week, President Trump tweeted: "Megan should never disrespect our Country, the White House, or our Flag, especially since so much has been done for her & the team."
Trump also said he would invite the team, win or lose.
A day before the match, Rapinoe said she stood by her comments, except the coarse language.
Rapinoe, who also had a pair of goals on penalty kicks in the USA's 2-1 victory over Spain to open the knockout stage, even suggested the uproar might help her team.
"I think, if anything, it just fires everybody up a little bit more," she said.
Coach Jill Ellis said Rapinoe's night was typical of the outspoken 33-year-old 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," Ellis said.
The top-ranked Americans are headed to Lyon to face No.3 England in a semi-final match.