Megan Rapinoe’s World Cup career ended in heartbreak after she missed her penalty during a dramatic shootout loss to Sweden as defending champions the U.S. exited the FIFA Women’s Soccer World Cup on Sunday. It was the first time USWNT has been knocked out of the tournament as early as the Round of 16 stage.
Rapinoe won the 2015 and 2019 Women’s World Cups, was USWNT co-captain between 2018 and 2020 and won gold at the 2012 Olympics.
Following a goalless 90 minutes plus extra time, Sweden and the USWNT faced off in a tense penalty shootout in Melbourne, Australia, on Sunday.
U.S. goalie Alyssa Naeher got her hands to the deciding spot kick by Lina Hurtig, but goal-line technology confirmed beyond doubt that the ball had crossed the line, sending the Scandinavians through.
Megan Rapinoe of USA reacts after missing her team’s fourth penalty in the penalty shoot out during the FIFA Women’s World Cup Australia & New Zealand 2023 Round of 16 match between Sweden and the USWNT on August 06, 2023 in Melbourne, Australia. The defending champions were beaten by Sweden.
The tension had ratcheted up after Sweden’s Nathalie Björn and then Rapinoe both missed their attempts.
Sweden’s Rebecka Blomqvist subsequently fluffed her spot kick, giving Sophia Smith the chance to wrap up the game, but she shot wide.
Hanna Bennison then scored for the Scandinavians to take it to sudden death and when Kelley O’Hara’s shot hit the post, Hurtig secured Sweden’s hard-fought win.
Sweden now progress to the quarter-finals and will face 2011 World Cup winners Japan on Friday, August 11.
USWNT captain Lindsey Horan said following the loss: “A lot went into this performance, we were confident and patient and played beautiful football.
“We created chances, we didn’t score and to be frank penalties suck. I’m proud of every player who stepped up to take one. I’m very proud of my team. Some of the young players coming through are killing it.”
But the USWNT exit will be a bitter disappointment for Rapinoe who announced her retirement following both the World Cup and National Women’s Soccer League season.
In a July 8 post shared on X, formerly known as Twitter, Rapinoe said: “It is with a deep sense of peace and gratitude that I have decided this will be my final season playing this beautiful game.
“I never could have imagined the ways in which soccer would shape and change my life forever, but by the look on this little girl’s face, she knew all along.”
It is with a deep sense of peace & gratitude that I have decided this will be my final season playing this beautiful game. I never could have imagined the ways in which soccer would shape & change my life forever, but by the look on this little girl’s face, she knew all along. pic.twitter.com/XGZ1T9i7Wy
— Megan Rapinoe (@mPinoe) July 8, 2023
USWNT had faced criticism earlier in the tournament, with former players raising concerns over the team’s lackluster performances.
Questions were raised as they only avoided elimination at the group stage for the first time after a draw with Portugal on August 1.
The team started the competition with a 3-0 win over Vietnam on July 22, but a 1-1 draw with the Netherlands five days later meant the U.S. needed a draw or win to secure progression to the knock-out stages.
Former USWNT player Carli Lloyd was critical of her former teammates for celebrating following their disappointing draw against Portugal.
She said: “I have never witnessed something like that. There’s a difference between being respectful of the fans and saying hello to your family, but to be dancing, to be smiling.
“I mean, the player of the match was that post. You’re lucky to not be going home right now.”
Update 8/6/23, 9:42 a.m. ET: This article has been updated with further details and a new video.
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