Emerging from the dressing room following her team’s comprehensive 3-0 defeat of Colombia in Sinsheim on Saturday, USA midfielder Megan Rapinoe made a beeline for the pitch at the Rhein Necker Arena. Taking a moment to herself, she contemplated the scene and soaked in the importance of what she had just achieved there: her first goal in a FIFA Women’s World Cup™ match.
That effort came only five minutes after her half-time introduction against the South Americans, who had been hanging on gamely after Heather O’Reilly had given USA an early lead. The blonde-haired Rapinoe ensured there would be no way back for Las Cafeteras, however, doubling her side’s lead with an emphatic strike.
It was a move she started and finished. Taking a throw-in from the left touchline, she then sped forward to collect a pass from Lauren Cheney on the edge of the box and blasted a right-footed shot high past Colombia keeper Sandra Sepulveda.
An eye for goal
“I’m always looking to score,” the smiling Rapinoe told FIFA.com afterwards. “It doesn’t matter to me whether it’s the first minute or the last. I’ve got a striker’s mentality.”
Rapinoe’s goal was the second-fastest by a substitute in the FIFA Women’s World Cup, behind Pia Wunderlich’s third for Germany in their 7-1 quarter-final defeat of Russia at USA 2003, which Wunderlich scored only three minutes after coming on.
“Pia [Sundhage, USA's coach] asked me to bring that little spark and be active. I think I did that pretty well,” said the supersub with a trace of understatement.
A distinctive presence with her shock of short blonde hair, the Boca Raton magicJack player was in the thick of the action on Saturday, almost putting her side even further ahead with a thunderous shot that came back off the crossbar.
As she went on to explain, piledrivers are something of a speciality of hers: “I love shooting and trying my luck from distance, especially with the balls here. They’re fantastic. Hit them true and hard and they seem to go in on their own. It’s a real nightmare for the keepers.
“It’s my first ever World Cup goal,” continued Rapinoe, “and I can tell you that there’s no better feeling for a footballer than scoring for their country in a competition like this. I’m absolutely thrilled.”
Megan’s got talent
Making her afternoon even more special was the presence of large numbers of her compatriots in the crowd, the vast majority of them hailing from nearby US airbases.
In celebrating her goal, the Californian-born midfielder ran off towards a stand bedecked with American flags, grabbed hold of a pitchside microphone and, to the delight of the US fans, launched into a version of one of the country’s best-loved rock anthems: Bruce Springsteen’s Born in the USA.
As she explained, no little planning had gone into her star turn at the mic. Such is the confidence in Pia Sundage’s squad, that while most of their opponents are discussing how to score goals, the Americans are talking about how to celebrate them: “We spoke about it before and I mentioned those big fluffy things, which you usually kick out of the way when you’re taking a corner. We said it would really funny to use one and bring something new to our goal celebrations.”
As her ecstatic response to her maiden world finals goal showed, football is a game that Rapinoe lives with a passion, a passion that remains as strong now as it did when she took up the sport.
“That spontaneity and sense of improvisation on the pitch come from the street football I used to play as a kid,” she said before being awoken from her reverie by the shouts of Sundage’s coaching staff, calling her away from the scene of her glory.