Megan Rapinoe explains USWNT's celebrations amid criticism

The veteran midfielder said, "We work hard and play hard."

Megan Rapinoe: "The whole point of the game is to score a goal." Photo: AP

Megan Rapinoe has voiced her opinion on a wide range of issues that span beyond women's soccer.

But Saturday, before the United States women's national team faces Netherlands in the World Cup final, she addressed something that has been a big topic of conversation as the team blazes through to what they hope is a fourth world title. Rapinoe herself has taken criticism for goal celebrations, but she offered a simple explanation in a long-winded answer that addressed some of the underlying issues.

The veteran midfielder simply said, "We work hard and play hard."

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Rapinoe, who has scored five goals in this World Cup including consecutive braces in the knockout wins against Spain and host France, was absent from the semifinal victory Tuesday over England because of a slight hamstring strain. In the USWNT's win, Alex Morgan received flak for her tea-sipping celebration. But Rapinoe didn't bat an eye.

In fact, she encourages her team-mates to celebrate.

When asked if the hostility comes because society is not ready to deal with confident women, Rapinoe agreed.

"I definitely think that's part of it I think we have a particular lightness about us that maybe people take as aloofness or thinking that we're too good or whatever," she said. "I think so much of what we have to shoulder all of the time is heavy. It's no secret that we're the leaders in the women's game in a lot of different issues — equality and pay equality, gender issues and just at large our team has been very open and very willing to get in any kind of equality fight.

'The game should be played with exuberance'

"So when we get the chance to play and showcase our skillset and be free on the field, we work hard and play hard. We think the game should be played with exuberance. The whole point of the game is to score a goal. I actually get on my team-mates sometimes like you guys have got to pick your game, you can't score a goal and be like, yeah, I scored a goal. It's the whole point."

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Rapinoe has 157 caps on the USWNT and appeared in the 2011 World Cup, where the team finished as runner ups, and again in the 2015 tournament where the women claimed their most recent title. 

But she recognised not everyone will get opportunities to appear in multiple events, which is one of the reasons she eggs on the goal scorers.

"I think that dynamic is playing a lot. Obviously, we have to take on a lot off the field. When we get our chance, especially at the World Cup, this comes every four years. Nothing is guaranteed. Some players might only play in one, you're lucky if you get to play in multiple. This is the most incredible stage you can ever be on as a football player and we are going to enjoy it no matter what."

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