The USA have won their fourth Women’s World Cup title as they beat Netherlands 2-0 in front of 57,900 people in Lyon. In what was perhaps a tighter game than we had originally anticipated, it took a VAR penalty decision for the US to eventually break down the Dutch.
The first half was very hotly contested as tackles were tough, shots were strong and the atmosphere was tense. Sari van Veenendaal in the Dutch goal was the standout performer in that first period as she pulled out numerous world class saves. Meanwhile, Alex Morgan went close to opening the scoring a couple of times, as did Julie Ertz.
The first real chance for the favourites saw Julie Ertz sting the palms of the keeper from a corner. The ball was whipped in from the left, it then pinged around in the area before falling to Ertz who volleyed it powerfully towards goal. Van Veenedaal was well positioned to push it away and the Netherlands survived.
As the US ramped up the pressure, Alex Morgan’s influence on the game grew. Her first chance saw her get across the defender at the near post in typical Morgan fashion. She turned a teasing Megan Rapinoe cross goalbound but Van Veenendaal was there at the front post to turn it away. Not long later, Morgan tested her again she unleashed a venomous effort at goal from the edge of the box. The keeper got down very well to her left to turn the ball around the corner as the US piled the pressure on.
USA hold strong
After that spell of pressure from the US, the Netherlands managed to come out the other side and finish the half with a flourish. Lineth Beerensteyn was causing problems every time she got the ball as the US defence struggled to cope with her pace. She managed to win a free-kick on the edge of the box for her side, which was deflected wide.
Then followed a few corners from which Holland almost managed to squeeze the ball home right at the end of the half. Unfortunately for them, it was cleared and the half-time whistle blew. A very decent first half for both sides and much to the surprise of most, Netherlands were not only still in it, but playing well.
In the second half, the game resumed in much the same way it had in the first. USA were keeping the ball well but struggling to break down the Dutch defences. Until, that was, VAR decided to get involved.
The ball was played towards Alex Morgan in the Dutch box, it bounced up toward her and as she went to control it, Stefanie Van der Gragt desperately tried to clear it. She caught the shoulder of Morgan with a very high and very loose leg which originally, the referee didn’t see. However, in an all-too-rare demonstration of a positive influence from VAR, the referee revised her decision and pointed to the spot. At that point, there was only one woman who was going to step up…
Megan Rapinoe put the ball down on the spot and in typical Rapinoe fashion, smashed it past the keeper with no problems at all. USA back in their natural habitat – ahead in a football match.
After the goal, Netherlands were forced to come forward a little more than they would have liked and as a result, gaps started appearing at the back. Alex Morgan and a tiring Tobin Heath were finding spaces to run into, both of them found themselves one-on-one with the keeper at some point but they just couldn’t find the net.
No such problem though for the fantastic youngster Rose Lavelle, who doubled USA’s lead just eight minutes after the first goal had hit the net. Lavelle picked the ball up in the midfield, drove at the heart of the Dutch defence before sliding the ball to her left and smashing a brilliant effort across the keeper. Van Veenendaal had a great game, but there was nothing she could do but watch as both the ball, and the World Cup, sailed past her outstretched arm.
After that, USA were in a commanding position and showed no signs of weakness. Holland tried to make stuff happen going forward but they just couldn’t break through. In fact, it was the USA who looked the more likely to score as Tobin Heath had two more great chances. She couldn’t take either but ultimately, it didn’t matter one single bit.
The USA have, once again, won the Women’s World Cup. That’s the fourth time they’ve won that fantastic trophy and to be honest, there’s going to be plenty more yet.
For Netherlands, they need not feel despair. This was the first World Cup final for them and it most definitely won’t be the last. The meteoric rise of women’s football in Holland is certainly not over – in fact, it’s only just beginning.