For the fourth time in women’s soccer history, the United States won the World Cup final. On Sunday, the U.S. team, which has been the center of attention during the tournament, beat the Netherlands 2-0 to defend its title.
This championship adds to a portfolio of glory featuring world crowns in 1991, ’99 and 2015, and Olympic gold medals in 1996, 2004, ’08 and ’12. Germany is the only other country to win multiple Women’s World Cups.
In the Americans’ most difficult test of the month-long competition, Megan Rapinoe converted a penalty kick in the 61st minute after video replay overruled the referee’s initial decision.
There was no controversy eight minutes later. Rose Lavelle, the Washington Spirit midfielder who at age 24 enjoyed a breakout tournament, doubled the lead with an assertive run and 17-yard shot before a pro-U.S. sellout crowd at Stade de Lyon.
The Americans have won 13 straight matches and are unbeaten in 16 since losing a friendly at France in January.
A victory parade is tentatively scheduled for Wednesday on the streets of Manhattan.
Jill Ellis, a native of England who starred at Fairfax’s Robinson Secondary School and William & Mary, became the first coach to win two Women’s World Cup titles. The only time it has occurred on the men’s side was in 1934 and ’38, by Italy’s Vittorio Pozzo.
For just the second time in women’s tournament history, the coaches of both finalists were women: Sarina Wiegman has overseen the Dutch squad for 2½ years.
“It’s good that women get the opportunity to develop — as players, as coaches or in other parts of football and in society,” Wiegman said on the eve of the match. “But I also think the women need to have the guts to make choices and take risks to go for higher positions. What we need to do as women is show we have qualities.”
Both teams had shown their qualities through four weeks, running through the tournament without blemish in six matches apiece. The Americans took a harder road, edging the host country and England in the previous two matches.
In the days and hours leading to kickoff, questions surrounded both lineups because of injuries. As it turned out, all three ailing players (two Americans, one Dutch) were cleared to start.
Rapinoe returned from a one-game absence caused by a strained hamstring and Lavelle was cleared after limping off in the second half of the semifinal. Dutch attacker Lieke Martens overcame a toe injury to regain her starting job.
The Netherlands began on a positive note by not conceding a goal in the first dozen minutes. In fact, there were not any serious threats.
In each of their previous outings here, the Americans had roared out of the gates and scored an early goal.
Netherlands was physical and unafraid, disrupting U.S. forays and attacking without reservation. Promising space in the attacking third of the field, however, was quickly closed by the anticipatory Americans.
The United States probed for ways to unlock the Dutch defense but ran into firm road blocks. The challengers also applied pressure on the ball in midfield, resulting in wayward passes and giveaways.
The reigning champions were in for a more difficult day than many observers thought.
The first genuine U.S. chance did not come until the 28th minute when, off an uncleared corner kick, goalkeeper Sari van Veenendaal blocked Julie Ertz’s rising one-timer from 11 yards.
Veenendaal was busy the rest of the half, making a reflex stop on Samantha Mewis’s glancing header, stopping Alex Morgan’s one-timer at the near post with her right foot and making a wonderful diving save on Morgan’s thunderous bid from 20 yards that seemed destined for the lower right corner.
The Dutch absorbed the pressure and launched counterattacks with minimal success. They were, however, good enough in possession to worry the United States and stout enough defensively to leave the Americans scoreless at halftime for the first time in the tournament.
At halftime, the United States was forced to make a change as right back Kelley O’Hara left with a head injury, suffered in a collision moments before intermission. Ali Krieger, the Northern Virginia native in her third World Cup, entered.
Ellis had not planned to switch defenders, leaving her with two substitutions among her wealth of attacking options on the bench.
Another defender, Becky Sauerbrunn, required treatment to the forehead after a collision left her bloodied. She returned wearing a headband.
The first video replay led to the penalty kick.
In challenging Morgan in the penalty area, Stefanie van der Gragt raised her right foot and caught the U.S. player in the upper right arm. Morgan went down.
French referee Stephanie Frappart did not whistle a foul, but as the United States prepared for a corner kick, Carlos del Cerro Grande, the video assistant referee, recommended a review.
Had van der Gragt made contact with Morgan’s neck or head, there would have been no doubt. But had the Dutch defender committed a foul?
Frappart returned from the sideline with the verdict: penalty kick.
As van Veenendaal went one way, Rapinoe delivered the other way for her sixth goal of the tournament.
It was only the second penalty kick awarded in a women’s final and the first converted.
Eight minutes later, Lavelle extended the lead. The Dutch defense parted and the slight midfielder took full advantage.
She surged into an acre of space, forcing van der Gragt off-balance before veering to her left and stamping a left-footed shot from 17 yards out of van Veenendaal’s reach and into the far corner.
The flood gates had opened. With the Dutch desperately pressed forward, the United States had ample opportunity to turn the match into a rout. However, the touch inside the box was off and van Veenendaal made a terrific save on Crystal Dunn slaloming into the box.
Rapinoe left to a roaring ovation in the 79th minute, replaced by Christen Press. Carli Lloyd, the hat-trick hero of the 2015 final in Vancouver who will turn 37 this month, entered in the 87th minute.