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2023 Women's World Cup

‘I f**king miss a penalty. I mean, that’s just tough’: Rapinoe reacts to World Cup exit

Jenna Watson-USA TODAY Sports.

“It’s been a honor.”

Megan Rapinoe, face stained with tears and red with emotion, took to the pitch one last time for the U.S. women’s national team on Sunday, in the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup Round of 16 match against Sweden.

It wasn’t how Rapinoe thought it would end, but that’s tournament soccer. The U.S. played their best match of the World Cup against Sweden, but, coming down to penalties, the United States fell to their longtime rival. It is the U.S.’ lowest ever finish in a Women’s World Cup.

Rapinoe, when Linda Hurtig’s final shot went in, immediately went to go comfort goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher. Then, she hugged her teammates — some she’s played with her whole national career, and others she just started playing with.

Rapinoe said the ending — losing to Sweden on penalties — was a “sick joke.”

“I f**king miss a penalty. I mean, that’s just tough,” Rapinoe said. “Great performance tonight. Really proud of the group. Thought we had great control of the game. We were able to take away a lot of what they were dangerous with. I think they only had, I don’t know, maybe a handful of corners. And Alyssa [Naeher] was fantastic tonight. Just couldn’t find the quality in the final third.”

Rapinoe said she couldn’t remember the last time she missed a penalty, putting insult to injury on the cruelty of the sport.

“That’s the way it goes,” Rapinoe said. “I mean, I’ve definitely thought about that before. That’s always a possibility when you step up there. But I thought I was going to make it.”

Rapinoe — who announced before the tournament began that she was retiring from international soccer after the World Cup — is a two-time World Cup winner, in 2015 and 2019. She was on the 2011 World Cup team that finished second to Japan, and won a gold and bronze medal, respectively, in the 2012 and 2020 Olympics.

Rapinoe reiterated that, despite the early exit, she is still at peace with her decision to retire.

“It doesn’t take away from this experience or, you know, my career in general,” Rapinoe explained. “I feel so lucky and grateful to have played as long as I have and been on the successful teams that I have and be part of a very special generation of players, who have done so much on and off the field. It would be hard to feel disappointed in any type of way. Obviously, [there is] the immediate disappointment of being out of the tournament, but I think just in general, I’m OK.”

“I feel at peace with that,” she continued. “It’s sad, but I’m OK.”

The veteran striker — who will go back to her club team, OL Reign, and compete until the end of the NWSL season (and potential playoffs), until she retires from professional soccer, too — said she is proud of the team, despite the score line.

“I feel really proud of it and really proud of this team and really proud of all the players that I’ve played with,” Rapinoe said. “I’ve just loved every bit of my career and I’ll just miss it to death.”

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Vlatko Andonovski, coach of the U.S. women’s national team, called Rapinoe a “legend.” He elaborated on his decision to bring on Rapinoe for the penalty kicks as a late substitute.

“[She’s] number one in the world, no question about it. It’s a game of soccer. Sometimes the ball is going to go two inches to the left, or two inches to the right, and it’s not going to bounce in the way that’s favorable for us.”

Crystal Dunn, U.S. defender, said she is gutted for Rapinoe, and spoke about the forward’s last World Cup.

“She’s a player that doesn’t normally miss penalty kicks, and for her, I think she almost had to realize that, that is just the reality,” Dunn said. “For her, she’s going to move forward from this moment and try to bring other players around her and bring us up from this moment.”

On the Fox Sports post-game show, Rapinoe spoke with reporter Jenny Taft about being grateful to play professional and international soccer at the highest level.

“I think it can be cruel and just not our day,” she said. “But yeah I still just feel really grateful and joyful and I know it’s the end but to know that this is really the only time I’ve been in one of these, this early says so much about how much success I’ve been able to have and just how much I’ve loved playing for this team and playing for this country.

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