Megan Rapinoe has been lauded by her team-mates after her starring role in the United States’ successful Women’s World Cup title defence.
Rapinoe scored the opener with a penalty as the US beat Holland 2-0 in Sunday’s final in Lyon.
The 34-year-old ended up as the Golden Boot winner and also took the Golden Ball award, for best player.
Fellow US forward Alex Morgan said: “She’s the best team-mate someone could ask for.
“She had an incredible tournament so she deserved her awards, and it’s a testament to her self-confidence and self-belief.”
Rapinoe, Morgan and England’s Ellen White were joint top-scorers with six goals each.
Ties for the Golden Boot were settled by assists – the US pair had three each and White none – and then minutes per goal, which saw it go to Rapinoe.
After the final, Rapinoe declared it was time for the conversation about pay in women’s football to move “forward to the next step”.
In March, Rapinoe and her team-mates put their names to a lawsuit against the US Soccer Federation over equal pay and working conditions, and on the eve of the final she spoke at a press conference about the gap in prize money between the men’s and women’s World Cups.
Tobin Heath, who started alongside Rapinoe and Morgan in the US attack on Sunday, said of the former: “She’s an incredible player.
“She’s a fantastic leader for us both on and off the field and I think she’s really led with a lot of grace and by action too.
“It’s not easy to speak up and then also to follow it up by action but she’s done it so well, especially in this tournament, to stay focused and motivated at the task at hand but also be fighting a parallel fight as well.
“It’s kind of synonymous with the US women’s national team. We fight to win games and we fight for things off the field too.”
As well as boos for FIFA president Gianni Infantino, which Rapinoe said she was “down with”, there were chants of ‘equal pay’ from the crowd after Sunday’s game.
When asked about the chants, Heath said: “We’ve been fighting for this for a long time as a team and now to be on this platform and hear the stadium chanting for it, it was a really, really powerful moment and I hope that causes change.”
At one point during the World Cup, Rapinoe was accused of disrespect by US President Donald Trump for having said: “I’m not going to the f***ing White House.”
President Trump at that time said he would be “inviting the TEAM, win or lose”. After Sunday’s match, he tweeted: “Congratulations to the U.S. Women’s Soccer Team on winning the World Cup! Great and exciting play. America is proud of you all!”
US midfielder Allie Long, who described Rapinoe as “special” and deserving “every ounce of this stardom she is getting”, said with regard to a White House invite: “Megan already said she will not be going there.
“We stand behind her. We stand unified together. If that’s what our team decides then that’s what we decide, but we need the invite first. I don’t know if we’re invited yet.”
Rapinoe coolly converted her penalty – awarded via VAR following Stefanie Van Der Gragt’s high-footed challenge on Morgan – in the 61st minute, and Jill Ellis’ side then doubled the lead eight minutes later through a fine Rose Lavelle strike.
Ellis, who was born in England, was also in charge for the 2015 triumph. The US have won the competition a record four times in total.
There have been suggestions that they have displayed arrogance during the campaign in France, and when asked about that, Long said: “If anyone wants to call us ‘arrogant’, I think that’s the most ridiculous thing that I’ve heard.
“But any talk about us, I feel like right now is just fine. And we’re champions, so we have a right to be a little arrogant right now.”
Heath said: “I think we came here to win the World Cup. I guess like in anything, if you’re really good at things, people aren’t going to like you.
“I would replace it (the word arrogance) with ‘confidence’ and I think that confidence comes from the fact that we’ve worked so hard for these moments. We literally pour our lives into these.
“So if that’s arrogance, then that’s arrogance, but we’d die for things like these.
“I’m very proud of the group and the humility and togetherness of the group in order to accomplish this.”
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