FOOTBALL: Dutch are game, but U.S. too strong and wins fourth World Cup, 2-0, in Lyon

Europe dominated the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup, but the best team was the no. 1-ranked United States, which overcame a tight Dutch defense with two strikes within 10 minutes in the second half to win, 2-0, before a crowd of 57,900 in Lyon (FRA).

It’s the fourth World Cup victory for the Americans and back-to-back titles, the first since Germany won in 2003 and 2007. But it wasn’t easy.

The first half was bruising and scoreless, the only time in the tournament that the U.S. did not score in the first 45 minutes, despite having most of the possession (53-47%) and putting constant pressure on the Dutch defense. But keeper Sari van Veenendaal was outstanding, turning away shot after shot; the U.S. had five shots to one at the half.

The second half started the same way, with more U.S. pressure and the Dutch tiring. On a ball into the box intended for striker Alex Morgan, defender Stefanie van der Gragt tried to kick it away, but missed and nearly hit Morgan in the head. A video check resulted in a referee’s on-field review, and the U.S. was handed a penalty.

Megan Rapinoe took the shot and deked van Veenendaal, easing the ball into the right side of the net for a 1-0 lead in the 61st minute. Given the difficult time the Dutch were having getting off a quality shot, that looked like enough. It was only the second penalty ever awarded in a Women’s World Cup final and first to be scored.

But one of the stars of the next generation of U.S. soccer, 24-year-old Rose Lavelle, came alive on a dribble drive in the middle of the field in the 69th minute, releasing a left-footed laser from just inside the box that flew into the goal for a 2-0 lead and essentially ended the issue.

The Dutch were game, but the U.S. defense – which had been the big question going into the tournament – played soundly and with good work from keeper Alyssa Naeher, kept the Netherlands away from goal.

There was too much U.S. offense for the Netherlands to deal with and even when the game was scoreless, it seemed unlikely that the Dutch could score and put pressure on the Americans to play from behind.

The U.S. ended with a 15-6 advantage in shots an 52% of the possession; even more tellingly, the U.S. got nine shots on goal to only one for the Dutch.

The U.S. set a World Cup scoring record with 26 goals – half in that first-game, 13-0 rout of Thailand – surpassing Germany’s 25 goals in 2003.

Three players scored six goals to lead the scoring: Morgan and Rapinoe of the U.S. and Ellen White of England. Sam Kerr had five for Australia.

Sweden won the third-place game on Saturday, defeating luckless England, 2-1. The Lionesses had another game-tying goal by Ellen White disallowed in the second half and the Swedes rode two goals in the first 22 minutes to their third third-place finish in the tournament. Summary (records shown as W-L-T):

FIFA Women’s World Cup
France ~ 7 June-7 July 2019
(Full results here)

Final Standings: 1. United States (7-0); 2. Netherlands (6-1); 3. Sweden (5-2); 4. England (5-2); 5. Germany (4-1); 6. France (4-1); 7. Italy (3-2); 8. Norway (3-2); 9. Australia (2-1-1); 10. Brazil (2-2); 11. Canada (2-2); 12. Spain (1-2-1); 13. Japan (1-2-1); 14. China (1-2-1); 15. Nigeria (1-3); 16. Cameroon (1-3); 17. Chile (1-2); 18. Argentina (0-2-1); 19. Scotland (0-2-1); 20. New Zealand (0-3); 21. South Korea (0-3); 22. South Africa (0-3); 23. Jamaica (0-3); 24. Thailand (0-3). Semifinals: U.S. 2, England 1; Netherlands 1, Sweden 0 (extra time). Final: U.S. 2, Netherlands 0.