LYON, France (Reuters) - Megan Rapinoe was hailed as a warrior by team mate Christen Press on Monday, after a week in which the United States winger was criticised by President Donald Trump but still led her side into a women’s World Cup semi-final against England.
Rapinoe was the target of critical tweets by Trump after video emerged of her saying she would not visit the White House if the U.S. retained the World Cup.
She brushed that off, however, and scored twice against hosts France to set up a showdown with England in Lyon on Tuesday.
Press lauded Rapinoe’s off-field activism which includes not singing the national anthem, initially to show support for former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who took a knee to raise awareness about racial injustice.
“Over the course of my career I’ve been privileged to play alongside Megan and I think that she’s a warrior on the field, she’s a very special player and she always has been,” Press told reporters.
“She’s always been unique in her style and flair and off the field she’s also a warrior.
“I think that we push each other and 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 the it’s the opposite. And that’s something that, as an athlete, is incredible and as a human even more so.”
Rapinoe also scored twice in the last-16 match against Spain and is now the tournament’s joint-top scorer on five, alongside compatriot Alex Morgan.
They will face an England side on Tuesday also brimming with standout players including Olympique Lyonnais defender Lucy Bronze who hit a stunning long-range effort in her side’s 3-0 win over Norway in the quarter-finals.
U.S. goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher said they were prepared for the threat of Bronze, whose own manager Phil Nevillle described last week as “the best player in the world”.
“We prepare for everything. Every little detail we prepare for and that’s certainly one of the things that we have to be ready for,” Naeher said.
“Obviously, she hit the great goal against Norway in the quarter-final game from outside the box so we’re preparing for everything.”
Naeher also played down talk that the U.S. may have breached team etiquette by having one of their operations team visit the England hotel in Lyon at the weekend should they make the final - a move which unnerved Lionesses coach Neville.
“That, to be honest, is nothing to do with the game. Our managers operations have scouted and checked out every hotel we’ve ever stayed at or potential hotel that we will stay in to get make sure we’ve got Plan A, Plan B, Plan C,” Naeher said.
Reporting by Christian Radnedge, editing by Ed Osmond