After weeks of uproar over its sportsmanship and elaborate goal celebrations, the United States women’s soccer team has won its fourth World Cup with a 2-0 victory over the Netherlands in Lyon, France.
‘We’re crazy,’ captain Megan Rapinoe told Fox after the U.S. won its second consecutive World Cup title. ‘That’s what makes us special.
‘It’s unbelievable. Just to know all of the people in our group that put in so much work, obviously the players – we have all our friends and family here – it’s surreal.’
According to Fox Sports, New York will host a parade for the four-time champs on Wednesday morning
WORLD CUP WINNERS:
5-time winners – Brazil (men)
4 – Germany (men), Italy (men), United States (women)*
2 – Argentina (men), Uruguay (men), France (men), Germany (women)
1 – England (men), Spain (men), Japan (women), Norway (women)
* – The U.S. women won their fourth World Cup with a 2-0 victory over the Netherlands in Lyon, France
Following a scoreless first half, Rapinoe scored a penalty kick in the 61st minute and Rose LaValle added a goal of her own in the 69th minute.
The first goal came about after referee Stephanie Frappart awarded a penalty following a video review showed that defender Stefanie van der Gragt made a high challenge on American striker Alex Morgan.
Rapinoe, who was returning from a hamstring injury, confidently struck the spot-kick down the middle and past a static Sari van Veenendaal, who seemed to anticipate Rapinoe would shoot to the side and was wrong-footed.
And just as she did in the quarterfinal win over France, Rapinoe struck a dramatic pose after the goal, raising one arm like a ballerina.
It was Rapinoe’s sixth goal, tying her with Morgan and England’s Ellen White at the top of the scoring charts.
With the goal, Rapinoe won the Golden Boot and raised her arms in her by-now familiar victory pose when she collected it.
Fans, many dressed in red, white and blue, chanted ‘Equal Pay!’ at the final whistle, a reminder players sued the U.S. Soccer Federation in March claiming gender discrimination.
The Americans never trailed in the tournament and set records with 26 goals and a 12-game World Cup winning streak dating to 2015. U.S. coach Jill Ellis became the first coach to lead a team to two Women’s World Cup titles, and the U.S. joined Germany in 2003 and 2007 as the only repeat champions.
With confidence and brashness that some called even arrogant – triggering a backlash that the angry response was sexist – this American team established a standard of excellence that will be a goal for other U.S. teams and the rest of the world to match. Former American players joined the current generation on the field for the postgame celebration.
‘This is just an amazing group of players,’ said coach Jill Ellis, ‘but an even better group of people, just fantastic resilience, just chemistry.’
After the game Rapinoe, who turned 34 on Friday, wished her brother Brian a ‘Happy Birthday.’ Rapinoe has talked openly about her brother’s addiction problems. He currently resides at the San Diego’s Male Community Reentry Program, which is a rehabilitative program that will allow Brian to stay out of prison while he finishes a sentence on drug offenses.
Sunday marked the first time in the tournament that the U.S. women entered halftime without the lead – and not because they didn’t have their chances.
Dutch goalkeeper Sari van Veenendaal was the unquestioned star of the first 45 minutes, making four difficult saves and shutting down several American scoring opportunities.
The heavily-favored Americans previously scored in the first 12 minutes of every other tournament game. Sunday also marked only the second time in the tournament that the U.S. entered halftime without the lead.
The U.S. nearly scored off a corner kick in the 27th minute as the ball bounced to midfielder Julie Ertz, whose rife shot was saved easily by Van Veenendaal.
The Americans would go on for another half dozen, or so, scoring chances, but failed to convert with Van Veenendaal and the Dutch defense stifling the U.S. attack in the first half.
For her goal, LaVelle collected the ball some 30 meters out, advanced to the penalty area and skipped past defender Stefanie van der Gragt before planting a low shot past goalkeeper Sari van Veenendaal.
‘I am so proud of her,’ Rapinoe said. ‘She’s a superstar.’
She was mobbed as she dived into the arms of her teammates as she sprinted to the U.S. bench to celebrate.
Lavelle, at 24 the team’s up-and-coming star, added a goal on an 18-foot left-footed shot in the 69th after a solo run up the center of the field.
The now four-time champion Americans have been called brash and over-confident throughout this World Cup, starting with their 13-0 win over Thailand when they were criticized for celebrating every goal.
Veteran Carli Lloyd poked fun at the pearl-clutching during the team’s 3-0 win over Chile by celebrating one of her two scores with a sarcastic golf clap.
But while that the Americans did score 10 fewer goals against the Chileans, the reality was the game was primarily played by backups, prompting defender Ali Krieger to boast that the U.S. has ‘the best team and the second-best team in the world.’
The U.S. shutout of nemesis Sweden and the subsequent 2-1 knockout stage wins over Spain and France only supported Krieger’s claim.
The issue of American arrogance came up before the semi-final against England as Lionesses coach Phil Neville discovered U.S. women’s team staffers scoping his team’s hotel.
A pair of U.S. staffers visited the Fourvière Hotel, which is close to the old town, while England was out at a practice.
The England-born U.S. coach Jill Ellis insisted it was a sign of good preparation rather than arrogance, because the Americans were considering using that hotel if the advanced to the final, which they did.
But Neville claimed it was bad etiquette to scout the hotel before winning the semi-final.
‘It’s important that our team has confidence,’ Ellis said. ‘I don’t think in any way this is an arrogant team.’
Then, when the Americans did beat England in the semi-final, forward Alex Morgan was criticized for celebrating the go-ahead goal by pretending to drink a cup of tea – something many saw as being disrespectful to the English.
However, nobody generated more controversy than Rapinoe.
The U.S. captain has made headlines off the field during the World Cup, most notably, when a previously recorded interview with Eight by Eight magazine showed her declaring she would not ‘go to the f***ing White House’ if the Americans win the tournament.
She has also refused to sing the national anthem before games after previously kneeling in protest in 2016. The U.S. Soccer federation has since implemented a rule requiring players to stand, and Rapinoe has complied.
Rapinoe did not sing the national anthem before Sunday’s game.
The self-described ‘walking protest’ to President Donald Trump has also made headlines on the field, where she scored five goals before sitting out the semi-final win over England with a hamstring injury. Rapinoe is expected to play against the Dutch.
‘I’m like a kid in the candy story right now,’ Rapinoe said. ‘This is the absolute best stage. I already feel more anxious and more nervous than in any of the other games.’