The U.S. women’s soccer team is still the world’s best after dominating the Netherlands in the Women’s World Cup final and winning 2-0. Throughout the tournament, the U.S. brushed aside criticism, complaints of arrogance and calls for the team to tone down their goal celebrations. All the team did was win. All seven World Cup games, in fact.
In the first half, the U.S. created more chances than the Netherlands. The Americans attacked and attacked, but the Dutch defense and, particularly, the goalkeeping of Sari van Veenendaal, who blocked four shots, kept the U.S. from scoring in an opening half for the first time this tournament.
Sunday’s sell-out crowd at Stade de Lyon, near Lyon, France, decked out in red, white and blue — and orange — and cheered and cheered and sweated it out with nervous fans watching around the world. Before the final, neither team had trailed or lost a game in this tournament. Both squads had each permitted only a total of three goals. The Dutch got better as the tournament progressed — keeping their opponents from scoring in each of the knockout games before the final.
The U.S. made one change at halftime, replacing Kelley O’Hara with Ali Krieger. O’Hara knocked heads with Lieke Martens late in the first half. The collisions continued in the second half. Becky Sauerbrunn was knocked to the turf, blood trickling down her face. She returned with black tape wrapped across her forehead.
The breakthrough for the U.S. came in the 61st minute. As forward Alex Morgan streaked in front of the Dutch goal, defender Stefanie van der Gragt tagged Morgan’s shoulder with her right boot. A penalty kick was awarded after video review. Megan Rapinoe coolly slapped the ball into the back of the net. It was her third converted penalty and sixth goal of the tournament. Rapinoe won the Golden Ball (MVP) and Golden Boot (top goal scorer).
The U.S. scoring continued in the 69th minute thanks to midfielder Rose Lavelle. She dribbled down the field and, with a beautiful left-footed strike at the top of the penalty area, zipped the ball low and to the right. 2-0. It was all the scoring the U.S. would need.
The United States rolled through the opening round with statement wins over Thailand (13-0), Chile (3-0) and Sweden (2-0). Brushing aside criticism about perceived arrogance and excessive goal celebrations, the U.S. then powered through the heart of European soccer with victories over Spain (2-1), France (2-1) and England (2-1) to make it to the final against the reigning European champions.
It was the fifth time the United States Women’s National Team played a World Cup final (there have been only eight tournaments). The U.S. is the first team to reach three consecutive finals and joins Germany as a repeat champion (2003 and 2007). With Sunday’s win, the U.S. has a record four Women’s World Cup trophies.