The United States has won the Women’s World Cup for the fourth time after beating the Netherlands 2-0 on Sunday night.
The Netherlands held on for over an hour but two goals within eight minutes sealed the underdog’s fate. In a tournament where she has transcended her sport, Megan Rapinoe coolly drilled home a penalty before a Rose Lavelle thunderbolt made sure of a second successive title for the US.
This is the World Cup where it became apparent that the USWNT is being rapidly pursued by those European countries whose men’s national teams have long since been a force.
Leading the chase is the Netherlands, European champion and a finalist in just its second World Cup, which is part of a pack, but all challengers have been vanquished.
Thailand, Chile, Sweden, Spain, France, England and now the Netherlands have all been swept aside by a team which is now unbeaten in 17 World Cup matches.
The Netherlands soaked up the pressure in the first half. It is the only team in this tournament which the USWNT has been unable to breach within the opening 12 minutes.
When French referee Stephanie Frappart opted to bring VAR into play, showing Stefanie van der Gragt to have felled Alex Morgan, it was almost certain that the penalty would be awarded.
Rapinoe stepped up to score her sixth goal of the tournament and celebrated with her arms outstretched in a pose which has become iconic during the tournament.
Her teammates engulfed her near the corner flag, with even the substitutes sprinting half the length of the pitch to join the celebrations. Given the doggedness of Dutch resistance, the relief of the US team was tangible.
It was only after going 1-0 down that the Netherlands attack, its most potent weapon, seemed to feel at ease in its surroundings, but teams who fall behind to the USWNT rarely recover.
Midfielder Rose Lavelle’s fine solo goal made it 2-0 in the 69th, as she powered to the edge of the penalty area and hit a low strike.
Rapinoe’s sixth goal moved her even with teammate Alex Morgan and England’s Ellen White as the tournament’s leading scorers. As a result, she won the Golden Boot. Lavelle was honored with the Bronze Ball award and Alyssa Naeher earned the Golden Glove for the Women’s World Cup’s best goalkeeper.