For the first time at this World Cup, the U.S. didn’t score early. But the Americans were the ones celebrating late as they beat the Netherlands 2-0 in Sunday’s final to win their fourth World Cup and second in a row.
The celebration began as the clock ticked down in the final minute of stoppage time. Two-time Olympian Megan Rapinoe, who had scored her sixth goal of the tournament on a penalty kick in the 61st minute, hugged her U.S. teammates. Carli Lloyd, a two-time Olympic gold medalist and two-time World Cup champion, threw her arms into the air.
American flags waved in the air among 57,000 spectators in Lyon, France.
The U.S. joined Germany as the only nations to win repeat championships in the Women’s World Cup.
Rapinoe — who finished tied with teammate Alex Morgan and England’s Ellen White for the tournament lead in goals — put the U.S. in front in the 61st minute, scoring on a penalty kick following a play in which Morgan was kicked in the shoulder by Netherlands defender Stefanie van der Gragt in the box. The call was missed on the field, but awarded by video review.
The play clearly cranked up the U.S. offense.
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Eight minutes later, in the 69th minute, Rose Lavelle spun away from Van der Gragt and drilled a shot past Netherlands goalkeeper Sari van Veenendaal from about 35 yards out.
Two minutes after that, Morgan almost scored on a one-on-one against Van Veenendaal. The U.S. pressured the Netherlands in the final 15 minutes of the first half, peppering van Veenendaal with an explosive attack. But Van Veenendaal was up to the task, making eight saves.
U.S. goalie Alyssa Naeher also was called upon for some big saves in the opening half, twice coming out of the box to beat Netherlands attackers to the ball.
A head-to-head collision late in the first half led to U.S. defender Kelley O’Hara being taken out for the start of the second half. O’Hara went head-to-head against Lieke Martens. Both players went down hard and play was stopped. Ali Krieger replaced O’Hara in the second half.
Sunday’s victory finished off an impressive and at times dominant tournament in which the U.S. continued to take down records. The U.S. offense was powerful throughout the tournament, scoring a World Cup-record 18 goals in the preliminary round, including a 13-0 victory over Thailand when Morgan scored five goals. Their 26 goals across the tournament were also a record.
The U.S. is the first to win 12 consecutive World Cup matches, and they are the first to reach the gold-medal game in three consecutive World Cup tournaments. No other nation has made it to the semifinal round in all the World Cup tournaments.
Paul D. Bowker has been writing about Olympic sports since 1996, when he was an assistant bureau chief in Atlanta. He is a freelance contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.