When Megan Rapinoe soared her penalty kick over the crossbar in the U.S. women’s national team’s World Cup elimination match Sunday against Sweden, her mouth twisted in a smile.
With the expression, the 38-year-old was not making light of the moment but ruing it. While the three more shootout rounds followed, the wayward shot ended up as the last of Rapinoe’s career, as the USWNT lost 5-4 on penalties to Sweden in the Round of 16.
“I mean, this is like a sick joke,” she said of the ending to her illustrious career. “For me personally, I’m just like, this is a dark comedy. I missed a penalty.”
Her miss, while not the final one for the USWNT, provided perhaps the cruelest twist of fate in the shootout. The USWNT had scored on its first three attempts — from Andi Sullivan, Lindsey Horan and Kristie Mewis — but Sweden missed its third, handing the ball to Rapinoe with a 3-2 advantage. But Rapinoe missed, and then so did Sophia Smith, and the first five penalty rounds ended in a 3-3 tie.
In the 2019 World Cup final, Rapinoe’s penalty kick in the 61st minute provided the decisive goal in the USWNT’s 2-0 win against the Netherlands. But in 2023, her miss helped seal the fate of the two-time defending champions.
“This is the balance to the beautiful side of the game,” she said. “I think it can be cruel.”
Rapinoe had announced her announced her retirement prior to her fourth career World Cup. She won the 2015 and 2019 titles with the USWNT, as well as the 2012 Olympic gold medal, the 2019 Ballon d’Or trophy and 63 international goals. And even in the immediate aftermath of the loss to Sweden, she could put the moment in perspective.
“I still just feel really grateful and joyful. And I know it’s the end and that’s sad,” she said, before emphasizing “just how much I’ve loved playing for this team and playing for this country. It’s been an honor.”
Megan Rapinoe is full of emotion after the final whistle 🇺🇸💔 pic.twitter.com/aUdercNr2y— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) August 6, 2023
Megan Rapinoe is full of emotion after the final whistle 🇺🇸💔 pic.twitter.com/aUdercNr2y
FIFA Women's World Cups won't be the same without @mPinoe 🇺🇸👏2x FIFA Women's World Cup Champion 🏆🏆2019 Best FIFA Women's Player 🏆2019 FIFA Women's World Cup Golden Boot 🏆2019 FIFA Women's World Cup Golden Ball 🏆2019 Ballon d'Or Féminin winner 🏆 pic.twitter.com/xLbC9oFrfS— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) August 6, 2023
FIFA Women's World Cups won't be the same without @mPinoe 🇺🇸👏2x FIFA Women's World Cup Champion 🏆🏆2019 Best FIFA Women's Player 🏆2019 FIFA Women's World Cup Golden Boot 🏆2019 FIFA Women's World Cup Golden Ball 🏆2019 Ballon d'Or Féminin winner 🏆 pic.twitter.com/xLbC9oFrfS