Sarina Wiegman has hailed Megan Rapinoe as “one of the most important players” after the 2019 Ballon d’Or winner played her final game for the US women’s national team and prepares for her retirement at the end of the NWSL season.
Speaking before England’s Nations League match against the Netherlands, Wiegman said of Rapinoe: “I think she is one of the most important players. I think the US were the trailblazers in women’s football, and also for the position of women in society. We should be all very thankful for what she leaves behind. I have so much respect for her.”
Wiegman’s Lionesses have picked up the torch in the fight for equality and equity, having reached an agreement with the Football Association over bonuses and commercial strategy following their run to the World Cup final, something over which they were in dispute before the tournament.
“I think this group of women are very conscious of society too and using the platform in a positive way to change society,” Wiegman said. “They are so outspoken and well spoken, they articulate themselves so well.”
The head coach’s empowered players face her former team in Utrecht on Tuesday. Wiegman made almost 100 appearances for the Netherlands and led them to glory at the 2017 European Championship. Little wonder she described the upcoming encounter as being “very special”.
“A little bit strange too – of course I have some memories here,” Wiegman said. “I’m really looking forward to tomorrow. It’s just very special to be here and to play the opponents. Of course we know each other really well, I know the staff, most of the staff didn’t change that much, or the players. Lots of people will be in the stands that I know.”
The match, for which Wiegman will have a rested Alessia Russo back, is England’s second Nations League game, after their 2-1 victory against Scotland on Friday. The Netherlands, meanwhile, opened their campaign with a shock 2-1 defeat away against Belgium.
“We had a good review on the [Scotland] match,” Wiegman said. “We want to do a couple of things a little better, and keep doing the things that we did really well, bring that to the next level too – that’s what we talked about, and then tomorrow we go again.
“I think if you look at the stats against Belgium, they [the Netherlands] had pretty good stats. You see how the game developed and they were a little bit unlucky, and Belgium took advantage of that.
“Of course they want to do well because their goal also is to come first in the group, so with the first loss they really want to do well tomorrow and have a good result. That is what we expect.”