Soccer

World Cup 2019: USWNT defeats Netherlands to win fourth title

Megan Rapinoe, who wasn’t expected to start Sunday’s Women’s World Cup final because of a hamstring issue, wound up winning it instead, calmly slotting home a penalty kick in the 61st minute to start the U.S. on its way to a 2-0 win over a stubborn team from the Netherlands before a sellout crowd at Stade de Lyon.

With the win the U.S. becomes just the second team to win consecutive Women’s World Cups and the first country to win the title four times.

Rapinoe has been the heart and soul of two of those championship teams, all the while dodging critics at home – including President Trump -- who have taken issue with her on certain public stances.

One of seven players on the U.S. roster who have suited up for the last three Women’s World Cup finals, Rapinoe, who turned 34 on Friday, willed the Americans to this championship, scoring five of the team’s eight goals in the elimination rounds and finishing the tournament with six, giving her a share of the scoring lead. She won the Golden Ball as the MVP of the World Cup and also the Golden Boot as the tournament’s top scorer.

The penalty came after Dutch defender Stefanie van der Gragt struck Alex Morgan with her right leg in the 18-yard box as the two battled for a cross. Van der Gragt did not touch the ball, hitting the right shoulder of Morgan, who went down. After consulting a video review, French referee Stephanie Frappart came back on the field and pointed at the spot, awarding the U.S. a penalty kick.

Rapinoe, the Americans’ best penalty-taker, had no problems converting it.

FIFA Women’s World Cup 2019, Lyon, France - 07 Jul 2019
U.S. midfielder Rose Lavelle, top, celebrates with teammates Alex Morgan, left, and Megan Rapinoe after scoring during the 69th minute of a 2-0 victory over the Netherlands in the Women's World Cup final on Sunday.
(Ian Langsdon / EPA)

And then with the Dutch pushing for an equalizer, Rose Lavelle, one of 11 World Cup debutantes on the U.S. roster, doubled the advantage in the 69th minute. The goal was Lavelle’s third of the tournament.

The final score would have been much worse without a terrific game by Sari van Veenendaal, the Netherlands’ keeper and captain, who repeatedly frustrated the Americans with acrobatic saves.

The U.S. never trailed in the tournament and Lavelle’s goal gave them 26 in France, breaking the record for a single Women’s World Cup. The win also extended the Americans’ unbeaten streak to 17 games in World Cup play dating to 2011. The last 12 were wins.

For the Dutch, the reigning European champions, the spot in the final came in just the country’s second Women’s World Cup. And they acquitted themselves well, losing only to top-ranked U.S.

Kevin Baxter | 9:55 a.m.

Rose Lavelle’s goal pushes U.S. to 2-0 lead over the Netherlands

Megan Rapinoe’s goal opened the game and Rose Lavelle took advantage, doubling the lead with a left-footed strike from the edge of the 18-yard box in the 69th minute that made it 2-0.

Lavelle, afforded acres of space, dribbled up the center of the field, deked her way around Stefanie van der Gragt, then let fly. Seconds later Tobin Heath lost the handle on the ball in the box following a two-on-one break with Rapinoe that should have produced another goal.

Lavelle’s score, by the way, is the United States’ 26th of the tournament — a World Cup record.

Kevin Baxter | 9:32 a.m.

United States’ Rose Lavelle , right, shoots to score her side’s second goal during the Women’s World
U.S. midfielder Rose Lavelle shoots between two Dutch defenders to score the United States' second goal in the Women's World Cup final on Sunday.
(Francois Mori / Associated Press)

U.S. takes 1-0 lead on goal by Megan Rapinoe

After the Netherlands’ Stefanie van der Gragt makes contact with Alex Morgan in the right shoulder with her right leg, the U.S. is awarded a penalty kick after French referee Stephanie Frappart consults the video assistant referee.

Megan Rapinoe calmly slots the ball home with her right foot. She now has five goals in the knockout stage and six for the tournament, tying teammate Alex Morgan for the team – and tournament – lead.

Kevin Baxter | 9:20 a.m.

Still scoreless after 58 minutes

U.S. coach Jill Ellis had to use one of her three substitutions to take Kelley O’Hara out after her first-half collision with the Netherlands’ Lieke Martens. Becky Sauerbrunn, who has been outstanding, left for the sideline temporarily, bleeding from a cut above her eye after colliding with Danielle van de Donk.

Kevin Baxter | 9:18 a.m.

U.S. and Netherlands scoreless at halftime

Scoreless at the half. That’s something the U.S. hasn’t experienced in this Women’s World Cup. In fact, the Americans scored in the first 12 minutes of each of their first six games here.

But they still haven’t trailed in the tournament.

The first half ended with the Dutch showing a little offensive life for the first time. In stoppage time, a dangerous left-footed cross from Vivianne Miedema was headed clear by Becky Sauerbrunn at the edge of the six-yard box. Seconds later, the ball was pinging around in front of the U.S. goal following a Dutch corner before Sauerbrunn again headed the ball away.

American defender Kelley O’Hara and Netherlands’ forward Lieke Martens cracked heads leaping for a header entering stoppage, with both needing medical assistance before continuing. It looked nasty for both, who will probably be checked out during the intermission.

United States’ Megan Rapinoe , left, and Netherlands’ Desiree Van Lunteren challenge for the ball du
U.S. forward Megan Rapinoe, left, and Netherlands midfielder Desiree Van Lunteren challenge for the ball during the FIFA Women's World Cup final in Lyon, France, on Sunday.
(Francois Mori / Associated Press)

Ali Krieger, who has played sparingly in the tournament, has her bib off and is on field warming up while the rest of the team is in the locker room. She’ll likely replace O’Hara at right back.

The U.S. has put four shots on goal but Dutch keeper Sari van Veenendaal has been outstanding, stopping one with a leg save, batting another down with her fists and diving to push a left-footed rocket by Alex Morgan just wide in the 40th minute.

The U.S. have dominated possession, making nearly 100 more passes than the Netherlands, who are willing to absorb pressure and play for a counterattack.

Kevin Baxter | 8:59 a.m.

U.S. can’t score despite some quality chances

Still scoreless in the 43rd minute.

A couple of very near misses at the near post, first from Sam Mewis and then from Alex Morgan, then Morgan in the 40th minute with a rocket from outside the box that goalkeeper Sari van Veenendaal pushes just wide.

The Dutch players say Van Veenendaal, their captain and keeper, has been their best player in this tournament and she’s proving that so far.

The U.S., usually so dangerous on corner kicks, has had five in the first 40 minutes but really hasn’t done much with them. Tobin Heath is putting in some nice crosses from the right side.

A yellow card given to Abby Dahlkemper sets up a free kick just outside the U.S. penalty area. It is then deflected out by Kelley O’Hara for the first Dutch corner of the day. It goes nowhere.

Kevin Baxter | 8:45 a.m.

United States goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher , left, kicks the ball before Netherlands’ Lineth Beerensteyn
U.S. goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher, left, runs out of the goal box to kick the ball away from Netherlands forward Lineth Beerensteyn during the first half of the Women's World Cup final in Lyon, France, on Sunday.
(Francois Mori / Associated Press)

U.S. and Netherlands locked in scoreless battle

Scoreless in the 29th minute – but only barely – with U.S. keeper Alyssa Naeher coming off her line to clear the ball before hard-charging Dutch forward Lineth Beerensteyn can get there. The U.S. then comes down to the other end and Julie Ertz puts a hard shot on goal that is batted down by goalkeeper Sari van Veenendaal.

The U.S. is dominating in terms of time of possession; the Dutch have done very little going forward. Whether it’s by design or because it’s all the U.S. is giving them, it looks like the Netherlands’ best chances will be limited to counterattacks.

Through the first 25 minutes, the game feels a little like the early rounds of a title fight. The U.S. is landing the most blows and doing a lot of probing. The Dutch are fighting defensively, blocking and absorbing blows and patiently waiting for an opening.

The U.S. is starting to dial it in a little bit. They’re playing the ball over the top a lot in an effort to open up space it can exploit between the midfield and the Dutch defense. It’s a good strategy since the U.S. attackers and wingers are clearly faster than the Dutch defenders.

Kevin Baxter | 8:29 a.m.

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U.S. forward Alex Morgan, left, and Netherlands' defender Anouk Dekker battle for the ball during the first half of the Women's World Cup final on Sunday.
(Jean-Philippe Ksiazek / AFP/Getty Images)

U.S. putting some pressure on the Netherlands

The U.S. has been on the front foot from the start, controlling the ball two-thirds of the time. But aside from a couple of nice crosses, not many of the team’s rushes have produced anything remotely dangerous.

Dutch midfielder Sherida Spitse picked up a yellow card in the 10th minute.

Entering the 13th minute, the U.S. hasn’t scored. That’s the longest the Americans have been kept of the board at the start of a game since the opener, when Thailand shut them out for 12 minutes.

Remember how that one ended?

Kevin Baxter | 8:13 a.m.

FBL-WC-2019-WOMEN-MATCH52-USA-NED
Netherlands defender Dominique Bloodworth, left, and U.S. forward Tobin Heath battle for the ball during the opening minutes of the Women's World Cup final in Lyon, France, on Sunday.
(Jean-Philippe Ksiazek /AFP/Getty Images)

Teams ready to play

The teams are out for the national anthems. The U.S. is wearing white kits with red-and-blue trim and blue numerals. Goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher looks intimidating in black. The Netherlands, not surprisingly, are all in orange with white numbers except for goalkeeper Sari van Veenendaal, who is in..I don’t know? …would you call that blue-green? Aqua? She’s wearing a very mellow-colored uniform.

The size of the noisy, orange-clad Dutch contingent is impressive. Although it’s hard to gauge the number of Dutch fans because whole sections of seats in the stadium are also orange. They are cleared outnumbered by the U.S supporters, most of whom are in either red or white jerseys or T-shirts.

This game reportedly sold out hours after tickets went on sale earlier this year.

Kevin Baxter | 7:55 a.m.

Megan Rapinoe
U.S. forward Megan Rapinoe waves while standing next to teammates Samantha Mewis, far left, and Alyssa Naeher before the start of the Women's World Cup final against the Netherlands in Lyon, France, on Sunday.
(Jean Philippe Ksiazek / Getty Images)

Plenty of dignitaries in attendance

Among the dignitaries expected to attend the Women’s World Cup final are French president – and noted soccer fan -- Emmanuel Macron and Willem-Alexander, King of the Netherlands. The highest-ranking U.S. official on the guest list is Jamie McCourt, the former Dodgers co-owner who is now the U.S. ambassador to France. She attended an earlier U.S. game in the tournament.

Four other U.S. government officials are expected to come: Shauna Rohbock of the Army National Guard and the President’s Council on Sports; Marie Roy Loc, the assistant secretary of State for educational and cultural affairs; Seema Verma, administrator for the centers for Medicare and Medicaid services; and Josephine K. Olsen, director of the Peace Corps.

On the FIFA guest list is Gianni Infantino, the organization’s president; FIFA council member Sunil Gulati, the former president of U.S. Soccer; current USSF president Carlos Cordeiro; Robert Kraft, owner of the New England Patriots and the New England Revolution; and Ada Hegerberg, the reigning world player of the year who plays her club soccer in this stadium for Olympique Lyonnais. Her presence is sure to be controversial in her native Norway since Hegerberg boycotted the World Cup team and hasn’t played for her country since 2017 because of a dispute with her national federation.

Among the players and former players in attendance are France World Cup players Kylian Mbappe and Didier Quillot; former Women’s World Cup champions Carla Overbeck, Cynthia Parlow and Kristine Lilly of the U.S.; Japan’s Aya Miyama; Tim Cahill of Australia; Didier Drogba of the Ivory Coast; and Samuel Eto’o of Cameroon.

Kevin Baxter | 7:50 a.m.

Megan Rapinoe will play today for the U.S.

Megan Rapinoe, who missed last weekend’s semifinal win over England with a mild hamstring injury, is back in the U.S. lineup for the final – one of five American starters who have suited up for a third consecutive Women’s World Cup title match.

Rapinoe will take the place of Christen Press, who scored one goal and set up another in the 2-1 win over England. The only other change is in the midfield, where UCLA product Sam Mewis replaces Lindsey Horan.

The U.S. lineup: Alyssa Naeher; Kelley O’Hara, Abby Dahlkemper, Becky Sauerbrunn, Crystal Dunn; Julie Ertz, Sam Mewis, Rose Lavelle; Tobin Heath, Alex Morgan, Megan Rapinoe.

For the Netherlands, forward Lieke Martens, who came out of her team’s semifinal at halftime with a toe injury, will start. A former world player of the year, Martens was considered doubtful by coach Sarina Wiegman late Saturday.

The Dutch lineup: Sari van Veenendaal; Desiree van Lunteren, Stefanie ver der Gragt, Anouk Dekker, Dominique Bloodworth; Sherida Spitse, Danielle van de Donk, Jackie Groenen; Lineth Beerensteyn, Vivianne Miedema, Lieke Martens.

Both teams will play a 4-3-3 formation. The Dutch have given up just a goal in the knockout stage -- none in the last two games and 257 minutes. The U.S. has never trailed, scoring in the first 12 minutes of all six games here.

With a win, the U.S. would become the second team to win consecutive Women’s World Cups and the first to win four titles. The U.S. is unbeaten in its last 16 Women’s World Cup games dating to the group stage of 2011 and it has won its last 11 matches, dating to the group stage of 2015.

Kevin Baxter | 7:30 a.m.

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kevin.baxter@latimes.com | Twitter: @kbaxter11