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Megan Rapinoe hasn’t made it a habit to miss penalties throughout her illustrious career. So when she missed a crucial one during the United States’ 0-0 (5-4) loss to Sweden on Sunday morning in World Cup Round of 16 play, she was as surprised as anyone.
“A sick joke,” she told reporters when asked what she was thinking after the miss. “That’s why I had that smile on my face. Like, ‘You got to be f–king kidding me. I’m going to miss the penalty?’ I honestly can’t remember the last [time] I missed a penalty. Not in a game for a very long time.”
“But that’s the way it goes,” she continued. “I’ve definitely thought about that before—it’s always a possibility when you step up there. But I thought I was going to make it. I thought everyone was going to make it.”
Rapinoe, 38, hadn’t failed to convert from the spot since 2018, in NWSL play. That it was likely the last time she kicked the ball for the USWNT—Rapinoe had previously announced that she would retire from the sport in October after the 2023 NWSL season concluded—was a cruel twist of fate.
“It’s some dark humor, me missing the penalty at the end of this game,” she said.
“I’ve loved every bit of my career,” she added. “I’ll miss it to death, but it also feels like the right time and that’s OK.”
Rapinoe’s career has been one of the most decorated in USWNT history. She helped lead the United States to a pair of World Cup titles in 2015 and 2019 and won a gold medal (2012) and bronze medal (2021) at the Olympics with the team as well.
Her 63 international goals ranks 10th all time among USWNT players, her 73 assists is tied for third among the Americans and her 202 overall appearances falls just outside the top 10. She served as a co-captain for the USWNT with Alex Morgan and Carli Lloyd between 2018-20.
Individually, she won both the Ballon d’Or Féminin and The Best FIFA Women’s Player award in 2019. She also won the Golden Boot at the 2019 World Cup.
Off the pitch, she has served as a passionate and vocal advocate for LGBTQIA+ rights and other social causes, and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Joe Biden in 2022.
She wasn’t the only prominent figure to likely have played her last game for the USWNT, as defender Julie Ertz also said after the match that she was calling it quits on her international career. She made 122 appearances for her country and also was a part of the 2015 and 2019 World Cup-winning sides.