Megan Rapinoe saluted her “crazy” United States team-mates after helping them defend their World Cup title with victory over Holland in the final.
Rapinoe’s second-half penalty and a second from Rose Lavelle secured a 2-0 win for the holders in Lyon and left the 34-year-old lost for words.
Asked what made the team so special, she told Fox Sports: “We’re crazy, that’s what makes us special. We just have no quit in us, we’re so tight and we’ll do anything to win.
“It’s unbelievable. Just to know all of the people in our group that put in so much work, obviously the players – we have all our friends and family here – it’s surreal.
“I don’t know how to feel right now. It’s ridiculous.”
Rapinoe reserved special praise for rising star Lavelle, whose strike effectively killed off the contest.
She said: “That was what she’s been missing, just that little bit. All tournament, she’s been on the dribble, so dangerous for us. She’s opened up everything for us.
“For her to get that reward tonight on the biggest stage that you possibly can, I’m so proud of her. She’s a superstar not even in the making, she’s a straight-up superstar at this point.”
Rapinoe also bagged the Golden Boot for being top scorer with six goals and three assists in five appearances in France. The 34-year-old also took home won the Golden Ball award.
USA coach Jill Ellis was emotional as she assessed what she had just witnessed as USA won the World Cup for the fourth time in eight editions.
Ellis said: “This is just an amazing group of players, but an even better group of people, just fantastic resilience, just chemistry.
“They’ve put their hearts and souls into this journey and I can’t thank them enough. It’s been fantastic.”
Asked what she had said to her players in a huddle on the pitch shortly after the final whistle, she added: “I could barely speak, but I just said to them they were unbelievable, congratulations, they made history, enjoy it.
“It’s unbelievable. I’ve got no words, I’m sorry.”
This has been a rather strange season for Lionel Messi.
As the Barcelona and Argentina captain finally heads away for an overdue but brief summer holiday, he will reflect on a long campaign which, on the plus side, saw him play some of the best football of his career to power Barcelona to the La Liga title with an 11-point margin over second-placed Atletico Madrid and a record 19 point gap to eternal enemy Real Madrid.
On the downside, however, Messi’s season suffered a finale which was nothing short of total disaster: in the last two months he has been powerless to prevent Barcelona exiting the Champions League in humiliating circumstances and then losing the Copa del Rey final, before suffering more international heartache with Argentina’s elimination from the Copa America at the semi-final stage against Brazil.
For the poisoned icing on top of the cake, Messi’s very last act of the 2018/19 campaign, of course, was receiving only the second red card of his career – and his first since 2005 – in a bust-up with Chile’s pitbull Gary Medel during Saturday night’s third-place Copa play-off.
The injustice of that dismissal, and Argentina’s perceptions of their overall mistreatment by Copa America officials, saw Messi head into his holidays on a very sour note, risking further disciplinary action by launching an uncharacteristically emotional tirade at the ‘corruption’ he believes exists within CONMEBOL, South American football’s governing body.
For such a fierce competitor who takes his career so seriously, it’s clear that Messi will be inhabiting a dark place during the first few days of his short vacation, perhaps only alleviated by the merciless mocking he is bound to receive from his son Mateo, who revels in any opportunity to make fun of his poor father.
Before long, though, he will put those agonies behind him, consign them to the dustbin of the past and look forward to the future. Because that is what he has always done.
Yes, Messi has been here before. Even arguably the greatest footballer of all-time has regularly been forced to fight his way through some deeply depressing summer months before emerging into brighter days on the other side.
In 2006, for example, the young Messi was left distraught after finishing the season by being omitted by Barca boss Frank Rijkaard from the squad which claimed a Champions League final victory over Arsenal, followed quickly by another consignment to the bench as Argentina were beaten in the World Cup quarter-finals by Germany.
The summer of 2014 was even worse as Messi contemplated Argentina’s traumatic World Cup final defeat to Germany, coming hot on the heels of a season of downright failure with Barca and the tragic death of his much-loved former Barca coach and mentor, Tito Vilanova.
On both those occasions, and every other time Messi has been forced to confront serious setbacks and infuriating failures, he bounced back. He put his frustration behind him, focused on the future and got back to doing the thing he does best: scoring and creating goals.
Over the next few weeks and months, he will do that again.
Sure, the conclusion of the now-finished season will have left a sour taste in Messi’s mouth, and he will be deeply dissatisfied with the litany of disappointments he has encountered in the last couple of months.
There is also considerable doubt as to what the future holds at Barcelona. Will he spend next season playing alongside Luis Suarez? Or Antoine Griezmann? Or Neymar? Or Ousmane Dembele? Or some combination of the four? Will he perform on the right wing? Or as a false nine? Or a support striker? Or a deeper creative midfielder?
At the moment, he does not know the answer to those questions, and Barca’s evolution is fraught with danger.
But if you think those failures in the recent past and that uncertainty over the immediate future will have left Messi beaten, that he is a broken man and a spent force, then you obviously haven’t been paying much attention over the last 15 years.
Messi is made of strong stuff and he lives for this kind of challenge. He has something to prove, and he will prove it, just like always has done in the past. He’ll be back.
The South American football confederation said questioning the integrity of the Copa America is “unacceptable” after Lionel Messi alleged Argentina were victims of “corruption” in their 2-1 win over Chile.
Messi saw red towards the end of the first half of their third-place play-off in Sao Paolo and refused to take part in the medal ceremony.
The Barcelona star was dismissed following a confrontation with former Cardiff midfielder Gary Medel, who was also shown a red card.
Messi appeared to have been hard done by, with Chile defender Medel appearing to push his head towards the Argentina playmaker as they squared up, chest to chest.
The Argentina captain suggested he had been singled out following his comments over the “crazy” officiating in the wake of their 2-0 semi-final defeat by hosts Brazil in Belo Horizonte.
“We don’t need to be part of the corruption that we’ve suffered at this tournament,” Messi said, as quoted by Spanish media outlet AS.
“Medel is always right at the limit. With a yellow that would have been the end of it for both of us, but well, maybe what I said recently had an impact.
“What’s important is that the team finished well in the tournament. Maybe this was ordered and I ended up suffering because of what I said.”
In the aftermath, CONMEBOL said a “fundamental pillar of fair play is to accept the results with loyalty and respect”.
Although it does not mention Messi by name, the statement said: “The same goes for refereeing decisions, which are human and will always be improvable.
“It is unacceptable that as a result of incidents typical in competitions, involving 12 teams, all on equal terms, unfounded accusations have been launched that lack the truth and question the integrity of the Copa America.
“These accusations represent a lack of respect for the competition, all the participating players and the hundreds of professionals of CONMEBOL, an institution that since 2016 has been working tirelessly to make transparent, professionalise and develop South American football.”
Messi had helped set up an early goal for Manchester City forward Sergio Aguero, with Argentina going 2-0 up through Paulo Dybala.
Chile were handed a way back into the match following another controversial VAR review which resulted in a penalty being awarded after Argentina’s Giovani Lo Celso was adjudged to have fouled Charles Aranguiz. Arturo Vidal dispatched the spot-kick but La Albiceleste held on for a 2-1 win.