It was the second straight World Cup title for a dozen of the American players, who claimed their first championship in Canada four years ago. It also cemented their status as the gold standard in women’s soccer, even as Europe — led by teams like the Netherlands — mounts a sustained assault on their crown.
The tears flowed freely after the win: from striker Alex Morgan, who tied for the tournament lead with six goals; from Kelley O’Hara, who was forced from the game at halftime after a scary head-to-head collision; and from the Dutch, who fought the Americans harder, and kept even with them longer, than any team at this World Cup.
The Netherlands was the only team to hold the United States off the scoreboard in the first half in France but they, like all the other teams before them — Thailand, Chile, Sweden, Spain, France and England — could not hold them off forever.
Rapinoe’s goal came after Morgan was kicked in the shoulder by Netherlands defender Stefanie van der Gragt in the penalty area, a rare loss of composure by the Dutch team. Rapinoe, Coach Jill Ellis’s preferred penalty taker, calmly stepped up and buried her attempt past goalkeeper Sari van Veenendaal, who leaned to her right but barely moved as the ball rippled the net.
Van Veenedaal, who almost singlehandedly kept the game scoreless in the first half with several diving, sprawling saves, was named the tournament’s outstanding goalkeeper. Rapinoe won the Golden Boot as the top scorer as well as the Golden Ball as the tournament’s outstanding player.
Feature photo from Getty Images.