US retain Women's World Cup as Rapinoe picks up Golden Ball, Golden Boot awards
|(Megan Rapinoe 61-pen, Rose Lavelle 69)|
The United States retained the Women’s World Cup on Monday morning (Singapore time), as a Megan Rapinoe penalty and a Rose Lavelle strike gave the holders a 2-0 victory over Holland in the final in Lyon, prompting new questions over a potential visit to Donald Trump’s White House.
Rapinoe stroked home from 12 yards to put the US ahead just after the hour mark and end the tournament as joint top-scorer on six goals, after making headlines for stating she would boycott any team visit to the presidential mansion after the tournament.
Coach Jill Ellis remained coy on whether the team would carry out the visit if invited, saying that she “wouldn’t bet” on an invite coming.
However, the US President put their spat to one side to congratulate the team, tweeting: “Congratulations to the U.S. Women’s Soccer Team on winning the World Cup! Great and exciting play. America is proud of you all!”
There was an air of inevitability about the 34-year-old Rapinoe, the star of this World Cup on and off the field, putting the US ahead, and it also seemed inevitable that the breakthrough goal should come from a VAR-awarded penalty.
The whippet-like Lavelle, another stand-out performer over the last month, got the second in the 69th minute, killing off Dutch hopes of a comeback.
The victory underlines the Americans' status as the dominant force in international women’s football as they claim the World Cup for the fourth time in eight editions.
“I don’t even have words, it’s crazy right now. Even just getting to another final, it’s so difficult,” said Rapinoe.
“Hopefully, we will continue to reign strong for a number of years.”
Rapinoe ends the tournament with the Golden Ball for the best player ahead of England’s Lucy Bronze and Lavelle. Rapinoe also won the Golden Boot as her six goals came from fewer minutes on the field than teammate Alex Morgan or England’s Ellen White.
Ellis makes history
It is a fitting personal triumph for Rapinoe, a key player in the squad’s battle for pay equality which led them to file a lawsuit against the US Soccer Federation, accusing the organisation of gender discrimination.
“Everyone is kind of asking what’s next and what we want to come of all of this, and it’s to stop having the conversation about equal pay,” she said.
“What are we going to do about it? It’s time to sit down with everyone and get to work.”
The US were already the first team to appear in three consecutive finals, and Ellis becomes the first coach to win back-to-back World Cups in the men’s or women’s game since Italy’s Vittorio Pozzo in the 1930s.
“Man, that’s very impressive. She’ll thank us later,” said Rapinoe.
The US had been the only non-European team to make the quarter-finals here, but they had already ended the hopes of the hosts and England before denying the Dutch a dream double, two years after they won Euro 2017.
“We would have loved to win this final, but we didn’t. Our opponent was better today,” said Holland coach Sarina Wiegman.
“So we’re second in the world, and I’m very proud of that and for the team and staff.”
At a tournament which has showcased the improving standards of goalkeeping in women’s football, the excellent Dutch ‘keeper, Sari van Veenendaal, prevented the US from winning by a greater margin.
The 29-year-old allowed her team to withstand an onslaught towards half-time, saving well from Julie Ertz and bettering that with two superb stops in quick succession in the 38th minute.
She kept out a Samantha Mewis header and turned the ball onto the post when Morgan diverted Rapinoe’s low centre towards goal. Morgan was thwarted again from range moments later.
The US had scored no later than the 12th minute in all of their prior matches, but the Dutch, crucially, offered little going forward at the other end. Still, it was 61 minutes before the holders went ahead.
French referee Stephanie Frappart initially gave a corner when Stefanie van der Gragt challenged Morgan, but changed her mind after a VAR review. Rapinoe stroked in the penalty.
Eight minutes later, Lavelle set off on a piercing run towards the box, dropped her shoulder to set up the shooting opportunity, and fired in from 18 metres. The title was theirs again. – AFP