Powerhouses USA have defended their Women’s World Cup crown, claiming another title after a heated 2-0 defeat of the Netherlands on Monday (AEST).
Captain and provocateur Megan Rapinoe opened the scoring in Lyon with a 61st-minute penalty before Rose Lavelle danced through the midfield eight minutes later to secure the win.
The Americans’ success is their fourth World Cup success, follows their 2015 triumph and confirms their irrefutable status as the best side in the women’s game.
That much was clear all month in France, where the world No.1s began their campaign with a 13-0 walloping of Thailand and ended it with a determined and deserved victory in the showpiece match.
Rapinoe was also crowned as the tournament’s best player, winning the Golden Ball and Golden Boot for leading scorer.
The Dutch, at least, showed more backbone than other sides to face America in France.
None of the USA’s previous six opponents had held Jill Ellis’ scoring juggernaut out past 12 minutes.
“They presented a lot of challenges,” Ellis said.
“I said to the players at half-time, ‘at some point it’s going to break and it’s going to break our way.’
“I felt we would have our opportunities. Credit to the Netherlands for making it hard.”
Goalkeeper Sari van Veenendaal was a huge presence in the Dutch resistance, making a string of world-class saves to preserve the stalemate into the second half.
The Dutch captain denied Julie Ertz’s flying volley, Sam Mewis’ glancing header and a pair of efforts from Alex Morgan.
Van Veenendaal missed out on the player-of-the-match award to Rapinoe, but was later announced as the tournament’s best goalkeeper.
With Kelley O’Hara substituted with concussion at the break and Becky Sauerbrunn forced off with a cut head, the Netherlands were forcing a fight.
But the battle-hardened Americans were more than up to it.
As the hour mark loomed, yet another incursion into the Dutch box finally brought a reward for the USA as Stefanie van der Gragt’s outstretched boot caught Morgan high.
After reviewing the footage from the video assistant, referee Stephanie Frappart awarded the penalty for Rapinoe to dispatch.
The goal made Rapinoe the oldest goalscorer in a Women’s World Cup final and the leading goalscorer at the tournament along with teammate Morgan.
With the Netherlands forced to chase the game, opportunities opened up for the USA and Lavelle, the youngest member of the team, took one with style.
The diminutive 24-year-old galloped at the Dutch defence before turning her marker and striking firmly to secure the historic result; the first time the USA has defended the Women’s World Cup.
Dutch coach Sarina Wiegman, who led the Netherlands to an upset European championship in 2017, said her side should hold their heads high given this was just their second World Cup.
“Of course I am disappointed. When you play the final you want to beat the opponent,” she said.
“The USA played very well and deserved to be the world champion.
“I’m still very proud of what we have achieved with our team.”
In the post-match celebrations, German midfielder Giulia Gwinn was also named the tournament’s best young player.