The United States women’s national soccer team defeated England’s Lionesses in the World Cup semifinal matchup in Lyon, France, on Tuesday, and will now advance to the World Cup final this Sunday.
The U.S. women scored two goals and conceded one goal. The nail-biting game saw England briefly tied with the U.S. about 70 minutes in, until the goal, scored by Ellen White, the anchor of England’s offense, was called as off-sides.
The results are a marked improvement for the U.S. since the last time they faced England, when the teams played to a 2-2 draw, but unsurprising for anyone following the American squad’s dominant performance throughout this World Cup.
Megan Rapinoe, the team’s purple-maned captain, surprisingly was not included in the semifinal’s starting lineup and did not join the game in the second half, leading to speculation that she has an injured hamstring. U.S. officials did not provide a reason for the last minute switch-up but said Rapinoe’s absence was not disciplinary. Forward Christen Press started in her place.
Some fans posited that U.S. coach Jill Ellis started with Press as a strategy against England’s devastating defender Lucy Bronze, whom English coach Phil Neville recently dubbed the “best player in the world.”
Press quickly quieted any concerns over her surprise substitution. The left forward earned the first goal for USWNT, scoring off a header within the first 12 minutes of play. The goal proved to be the start of a breathless match.
White scored the first and only goal for England, making her the first English player to ever score in five World Cup games in a row. American center forward Alex Morgan came back from the momentary tie and scored another goal off a header. The game captain celebrated by “sipping” a cup of tea.
The U.S. women, widely considered to be the best team in the world, started the tournament with a demolition of Thailand's team. The USWNT scored 13-0, giving them the largest margin of victory in World Cup history—for either gender. The shutout also earned them the title of “biggest victory” in FIFA Women’s World Cup history and reportedly beat the record for most goals scored by one team during a women’s World Cup match.
Their supremacy hasn’t faltered since.
The team defeated World Cup host France 2-1 in the quarterfinals, with forward Rapinoe, scoring both U.S. goals. The near-hat trick pushed Rapinoe’s running tally of consecutive goals to four and made her the first player to score two or more goals in consecutive Women’s World Cup matches since Brazil’s Marta did so in 2007. She is the tournament’s joint top scorer, alongside teammate Alex Morgan and England’s Ellen White, who are all in competition for the tournament’s “golden boot” award. White and Morgan both added to their tallies within the first quarter, surpassing Rapinoe.
In addition to Rapinoe’s outstanding performance on the field, she has also made a name for herself off the field as President Donald Trump’s latest nemesis.
Earlier this month, a video emerged in which she vowed not to go to “the fucking White House” if the team won the World Cup. The clip then went viral after it was posted by soccer magazine Eight by Eight. In the video, Rapinoe added that she didn’t think the team would be invited to the White House anyway. Morgan told Time magazine last month that she would also not go to the White House if they were invited.
Her comments quickly reached Trump and resulted in a tweetstorm from the president against America’s star player. After initially tagging the wrong account, Trump reposted his tirade, writing in part: “Megan should never disrespect our Country, the White House, or our Flag, especially since so much has been done for her & the team. Be proud of the Flag that you wear.”
Rapinoe, who is gay and has long defended LGBTQ rights, previously made headlines for joining NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s protest of police brutality and discrimination against minorities in the United States by kneeling during the national anthem at the World Cup. On top of drawing the president’s ire, her sideline protest has also made her a target for right-wing pundits who vehemently disapprove of Kaepernick’s kneeling.
Several of Rapinoe’s teammates have publicly supported her comments.
Ali Krieger, a USWNT defender, said the president is simply angered by women he “cannot control or grope.” “I stand by (Megan) & will sit this one out as well,” Krieger tweeted in response to the president’s attacks. “I don’t support this administration nor their fight against LGBTQ+ citizens, immigrants & our most vulnerable.”
Press lauded her captain as a warrior. “Over the course of my career, I’ve been privileged to play alongside Megan… She’s always been unique in her style and flair and off the field she’s also a warrior,” Press told reporters. “It’s been beautiful to see her fearlessness as we get to the highest stages that she won’t back away, she doesn’t shy away—instead it’s the opposite. And that’s something that, as an athlete, is incredible and as a human even more so.”
The women’s team is no stranger to fighting injustice. Earlier this year, USWNT sued the U.S. Soccer Federation, reportedly claiming “purposeful gender discrimination” and fighting for equal pay to their male counterparts.