Women's World Cup final: Megan Rapinoe's penalty leads USA to 2-0 win over Dutch rivals

The US women's football team celebrate winning the Women's World Cup for the fourth time. PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON - Perhaps it was fitting that Megan Rapinoe made America great again. The United States' 34-year-old co-captain, an outspoken critic of both Fifa and Donald Trump, scored the penalty that enabled her country to retain Women's World Cup on Sunday (July 7).

In a tournament dominated by VAR, it was unsurprising the key decision came courtesy of technology but Rapinoe, in scoring a sixth goal to accompany to her three assists, added the Golden Boot to her many other accolades.

Rose Lavelle joined her on the score sheet as an obdurate Holland side were eventually overcome.

With 12 consecutive victories in World Cup matches and a solitary defeat in 45 internationals, it is undeniable the US are the planet's outstanding side.

If it brings a contrast with their male compatriots, who failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, their power persuaded Holland to adopt a negative approach. Some of this final was an attack-versus-defence exercise in which the outstanding player was the Dutch goalkeeper Sari van Veenendaal.

Yet she was motionless when Rapinoe slotted in her 50th international goal. Stefanie van der Gragt caught Alex Morgan with a raised boot and, while referee Stephanie Frappart initially gave a corner, the VAR decision was for a penalty.

Rapinoe, who had scored a match-winning brace in the quarter-finals and missed the semi-final with a hamstring injury, returned with a vengeance before departing to a standing ovation.

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While she became the first American to start three World Cup finals, Lavelle, a decade her junior, capped a breakthrough tournament by drilling in the second with pinpoint accuracy.

Crystal Dunn almost added a third, with Holland suddenly ragged as the European champions sought a way back into the game. They had begun with concentration and organisation, keeping numbers behind the ball, even if it was scarcely total football.

The US' swift starters had scored in the opening 12 minutes of every game, and indeed were 4-0 ahead after 16 minutes of the 2015 final, but Holland changed the script.

They prevented the favourites from even recording an effort on target for 27 minutes, until van Veenendaal made a sharp stop from Julie Ertz's well-struck half-volley.

Yet if the collective did well initially, it became a one-woman rearguard action as van Veenendaal made three fine saves in as many minutes, first thwarting Sam Mewis and then, after Rapinoe's fine cross, touching Morgan's close-range effort on to the post, before grabbing the rebound.

When Morgan tried her luck again from 20 yards, van Veenendaal tipped it wide as she underlined her credentials to be named the best 'keeper in the World Cup.

Her American counterpart, Alyssa Naeher, hardly had a save to make. While one goalkeeper was superb, another was a virtual spectator. It was a sign of American superiority.

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