LYON — Considering the way the tournament has gone and the game the highest level is trending, it was probably fitting the winning goal at the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup was scored as a result of video review.
Megan Rapinoe stepped up and calmly slotted home a penalty an hour into the game to give the United States the lead in a 2-0 victory against the Netherlands in the final at the sold out Stade de Lyon on Sunday.
As has been the case with many Video Assistant Referee decisions, this one was debatable and harsh on Netherlands defender Stefanie Van Der Gragt, who caught Alex Morgan with her boot trying to play a ball in the Dutch penalty area.
Van Der Gragt didn’t see Morgan standing behind her when she tried to clear a looping ball. Initially a corner was given, but VAR officials suggested French referee Stephanie Frappart take a second look and when she did, pointed to the penalty spot, ruling Van Der Gragt had impeded Morgan in the area.
Up to that point, the Netherlands was putting up good resistance against the United States, but the goal was a gut punch they were unable to recover from.
United States midfielder Rose Lavelle then scored the clincher eight minutes later on a wonderful individual run, turning Van Der Gragt inside out before firing a left-footed shot in to the bottom corner of the net.
Down two goals, it was curtains for the Netherlands, who never really threatened the United States goal. From there, the United States had the better of the chances as they pressed for more and would have added to the total had Netherlands goalkeeper Sari Van Veenendaal had not made a handful of outstanding saves trying to keep her team in the game.
For the United States it was their second-consecutive World Cup title and fourth overall to match the four Olympic gold medals they’ve won.
Despite the gap closing at the top of women’s soccer, the Americans proved they are still head and shoulders above the rest of the world, dispatching four European powerhouses — Spain, France, England and the Netherlands — to win the title.
For the Netherlands, it was the first World Cup final loss for the women to be added to the three the men have lost.
Heading into the contest as underdogs despite being reigning European champions, the Netherlands were looking to survive the first 15 minutes of the game against the United States and they did.
It was the first time the United States had not scored inside the first 12 minutes of a game.
The United States generated a number of good chances towards the back end of the half as Megan Rapinoe on the left and Tobin Heath on the right attacked the Netherlands fullbacks, who had trouble keep up to their speed.
United States midfielder Julie Ertz had the first chance just under a half hour into the game as she connected on volley from 10 yards out, but it was right at Van Veenendaal, who palmed it away.
Just 10 minutes later, the United States had a two good opportunities back-to-back on crosses from Rapinoe. Samantha Mewis was able to head one from in tight, but glanced off Van Veenendaal and deflected wide. Less than a minute later Morgan poked a low cross on goal, which Van Veenendaal was able to get a foot on and then gather it after it bounced off the goal post.
Morgan had another good opportunity, taking the ball at the edge of the box, cutting inside and hammering a left-footed attempt on goal, forcing Van Veenendaal to make an outstanding diving stop.
The Netherlands lone chance came late in the half off a corner kick as the ball feel to midfielder Sherida Spitse, but her shot went well over the net.
The final brought an end to an exciting tournament with its share of controversy, heartache and outstanding play.
Canada were eliminated by Sweden in the second round, but it was the first time they advanced past the group stage at a World Cup tournament held in Europe.
On Twitter: @DerekVanDiest
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