Holders USA retain Women’s World Cup in Style

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USA made history by becoming just the second nation to defend the Women’s World Cup with a 2-0 victory over the Netherlands in the final in Lyon on Sunday.

Captain Megan Rapinoe set the US on their way with her sixth goal at the tournament, breaking 61 minutes of Dutch resistance, when she converted a VAR-awarded penalty, after Alex Morgan was caught in the area by Stefanie van der Gragt’s raise boot.

Rose Lavelle then wrapped up the victory, capping a fine tournament on a personal level as she slalomed through the Dutch defence and fired a brilliant solo effort beyond the inspired Sari van Veenendaal.

Victory sees Jill Ellis’ side deliver a record fourth World Cup title, four years on from their third triumph in Canada in 2015, and become the first side since Germany in 2009 to triumph at back-to-back tournaments.

The USA had scored in the opening 12 minutes of each of their World Cup games this summer, but a disciplined Dutch defensive unit brought that run to an end, frustrating the holders early on.

It took USA until just before the half-hour mark to register their first notable attempt on target, Julia Ertz reacting quickest to the second ball at a corner and stinging the palms of Van Veenendaal.

USA settled into their groove towards the end of the first period but were prevented from converting their attacking dominance into goals by an inspired performance from Van Veenendaal.

The Dutch goalkeeper denied Samantha Mewis’ header at point-blank range and Alex Morgan’s low near-post drive on 37 minutes before Morgan’s rasping 20-yard drive was tipped around the post at full stretch.

Not for the first time in France, the USA were given a helping hand by VAR as Van Der Gragt’s high-footed challenge on Morgan was reviewed by referee Stephanie Frappart, who overturned her original decision of a corner and pointed to the spot.

Rapinoe coolly slotted home from 12 yards to break the deadlock and draw level at the top of the scoring charts with Morgan and England striker Ellen White.

One became two eight minutes later when Lavelle burst forward and fired a fine second beyond Van Veenendaal to secure a lead which proved insurmountable for the Netherlands.

Had it not been for Sari van Veenendaal, the USA would have run amok in Lyon. The Netherlands goalkeeper, released this summer by Arsenal, was in inspired form throughout and kept her side in the game as the US laid siege towards the end of the first half. On the back of this performance, she will not be without a club for long – a small crumb of comfort after the disappointment of losing a World Cup final.

Skysports

Samson Oyedeyi

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