England coach Neville reveals admiration for 'winner' Rapinoe
United States star Megan Rapinoe is "a winner" who deserves admiration for her actions on and off the field, according to England coach Phil Neville.
Rapinoe will be instrumental in the defending champions' bid to return to the Women's World Cup final having scored braces in both the last 16 and quarter-finals to book USA a last-four clash with Neville's Lionesses.
The 33-year-old was on target when England drew 2-2 with USA at the SheBelieves Cup in March, though Neville became a fan of Rapinoe at the previous year's edition of that tournament.
"Megan is someone from day one that I really admired," Neville said at a press conference to preview Tuesday's semi-final.
"I remember in my first SheBelieves, there was a ball bounced on the touchline and I went to catch the ball and her studs came right through my Apple Watch. She's not paid me back yet!
"What I liked about it, she didn't say sorry, she just got on with it, she's a winner. I like the individuality, both on and off the field. I think she's a world-class footballer."
Rapinoe has become the most talked about player at the tournament after grabbing Donald Trump's attention by declaring she was "not going to the f****** White House" if USA retained their title, a comment which led to the nation's president saying she should "WIN first before she TALKS" on Twitter.
The USA forward has previously knelt during the American national anthem in a protest over inequality and now does not sing the words.
Neville admitted mixing politics and sport made him feel uncomfortable but added he respected Rapinoe for using her platform to highlight issues.
"I admire Megan Rapinoe for standing up in what she believes in terms of a lot of things – the fight for equality, diversity, inclusion, that she fights a lot about and campaigns a lot about," said the former Manchester United defender.
"Me, personally, I would never get involved in any political issues. I'm a football manager, I don't know anything about politics. I don't like it when politicians get involved in football.
"Sometimes it's just, 'Stay in your lane' from my point of view, but if you've got views, values and you want to air them and you have a platform, I admire people who will stick their head above the parapet.
"We as footballers and managers have a platform to influence, to show kids around the world that being a footballer and influencing people and doing the right things is the right thing to do.
"What my players have done in this tournament, they've had visibility around the world. What they've found is millions of people – boys, girls, men, women, any religion, skin colour – have probably fallen in love with a group of 23 players that love playing for their country.
"I think that's more powerful than any press conference or words you can use."