Sports

Megan Rapinoe Had a Perfect World Cup

LYON, FRANCE - JULY 07: Megan Rapinoe of the USA poses with the Golden Ball trophy after the 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup France Final match between The United States of America and The Netherlands at Stade de Lyon on July 07, 2019 in Lyon, France. (Photo by Alex Grimm/Getty Images)
Megan Rapinoe with the Golden Ball trophy in Lyon, France on July 07, 2019.
Maja Hitij/Getty Images

Megan Rapinoe will have a lot to declare at customs when she flies back home from the 2019 World Cup. The United States co-captain won the Golden Boot and Golden Ball trophies (for being the tournament’s top scorer and best player, respectively), and those, along with her winner’s medal, represent a richly deserved clean sweep. Rapinoe had a perfect World Cup, the kind of celestial event that occurs far less frequently than the quadrennial tournament itself.

How does one define a perfect World Cup? You don’t, as far as I’m concerned. Arguments can be made for the mononymous stars of tournaments past, but Rapinoe’s achievement this summer was sui generis. She entered the World Cup saying “championship or bust,” and she departed by giving sculptors easy-to-follow instructions on how to construct the inevitable statuary.

Rapinoe’s scoring quite literally won the United States its fourth World Cup. Five of her six goals came in the knockout stages. She was responsible for every U.S. goal in the tightly contested Round of 16 and quarterfinal matches against Spain and France (both 2-1 wins). She also scored the opener against the Netherlands during Sunday’s final, a penalty handled with preternatural coolness that belied the terrifyingly high stakes.

Rapinoe was just as sure-footed off the pitch, and her willingness to speak her mind elevated all of her achievements in France. She’s been at the forefront of the U.S. Women’s National Team’s fight for equal pay and has repeatedly taken FIFA and other sporting bodies to task for their continued diminishment of the women’s game. “I think it’s pretty clear women in sport have not been treated with the same care and financing and all of that that men’s sports has,” she said during a press conference before the Women’s World Cup final, a game that was scheduled on the same day as the men’s Gold Cup and Copa America finals.

All of this clear-headed righteousness was bound to incur the ire of those on the wrong side of history, and it was no surprise when Donald Trump aimed his Twitter account at Rapinoe. In the lead-up to the tournament, Rapinoe said, “I’m not going to the fucking White House” when asked about a potential visit. Trump responded with a tweet thread attacking the U.S. co-captain. “Megan should WIN first before she TALKS!” he wrote. “Finish the job!”

Consider the job finished.

That looks like a perfect ending to a perfect World Cup. We may never see such perfection ever again. If we do, feel free to call it a “Rapinoe.”