The US did what was expected of them in a tense, tight and terrific final in Lyon. The Netherlands put up a fight, but a VAR check in the second half proved the turning point in a game the US deserved to win.
US 2-0 Netherlands
(Rapinoe 60' pen., Lavelle 69')
Nine second-half minutes were enough for the US to lift yet another World Cup title. The Netherlands got to the break level, but a combination of misplaced passes and hesitancy in front of goal cost them.
The US edged a physical first half but couldn't convert their control into goals because of the excellent Sari van Veenendaal. The keeper, who ended up winning the Golden Glove award afterwards, made a handful of superb stops to keep out the US and the Dutch in the game.
The game changed when referee Stephanie Frappart checked with the VAR just before the hour mark. Dutch defender Stefanie van der Gragt stretched her leg out to stop a cross from reaching Alex Morgan, but didn't touch the ball and her boot landed on Morgan's shoulder. Frappart pointed to the spot, and Megan Rapinoe held her nerve to give the US the lead.
Vivianne Miedema danced her way into the box as the Dutch look for an immediate response, but she took one touch too many and the chance was dealt with. That was perhaps the story of the afternoon for the Netherlands, and when Danielle van de Donk did the same in midfield, the US struck again. Crystal Dunn won the ball, the US drove forward and Rose Lavelle dropped her shoulder to confused the Dutch defense before crashing a shot into the far corner.
With the Dutch going for broke, the US had chances to score even more but poor composure denied them a greater winning margin. In the end, it mattered not though as the US team and head coach Jill Ellis delivered what was expected of them. Back to back World Cup titles, and four World Cup titles overall - the US remain the team to beat in women's football.
As it happened:
— The US team heads around the pitch. Next time, wherever the tournament will be, the prize money will go up (but the gap to the men's prize money will increase). There will also be 32 teams next time. That seems a lot, men or women, but the most important thing is that the women's game gets the investment it needs and deserves. If that arrives at the club level, then it will have an impact on the standard of international play. More money means more opportunities, better facilities, and more coaches for so many young girls and women across the world. This tournament has shown, it's time to recognize the women's game for what it is: brilliant.
— Lloyd lifts the trophy, the confetti flies and the US are joyous. The Dutch, just to the left of the stage, watch on at what might have been. The US are all smiles and they deserve to enjoy this moment. I hope that it is reflected in change in the future of the women's game.
— Rapinoe has had to shake Gianni Infantino's hand three times now. I'm sure it would be intriguing to know what was said there. Emmanuel Macron is also keen to share a few words with Rapinoe. Again, keen to know what was said there. Oh to be a fly on that stage. Not long until the trophy lift now...
— Nice touch. The US form a guard of honor for the Dutch who walk through to pick up their silver medals. Tough day for them, but a lot to be proud of and in two years they will have the chance to defend their title at the Euros in England.
— Awards time. Morgan gets silver boot, Rapinoe golden boot, and fittingly Van Veenendaal got the golden glove for the best keeper. Rose Lavelle gets bronze for the best player of the tournament, Rapinoe got gold. She is all smiles. What a tournament for her. Top scorer and best player and a champion. Wonderful. Not clear who got silver, but likely someone who wasn't in either of these two teams.
— Megan Rapinoe is also speaking after the game. "It's unbelievable... It's surreal. I don't know how to feel right now. It's ridiculous."
"That's what she's been missing that little bit all tournamet," Rapinoe on Lavelle. "I'm so proud of her. She's a superstar, not even in the making. She's a superstar."
"Happy birthday Brian. I love you so much," Rapinoe adds, with tears in her eyes.
— "An amazing group of players but even more amazing people... This is just fantastic," Jill Ellis said after the final. "This is unbelievable. I can't really speak. I'm sorry."
— The Dutch are in tears. A tough way to lose a final that was evenly balanced at the break, but the US are capable of punishing you when you make the smallest of mistakes. Nevertheless, it has been a great tournament for the Dutch.
— In the end, the US do what was expected of them. Fittingly, Megan Rapinoe scored a penalty in the final. Rose Lavelle, who was arguably the breakout player of the tournament, scored a brilliant second. But there's also a word for the likes of Julie Ertz and Crystal Dunn who were perhaps the unsung hero of the team. The flags are out and they're already dancing.
THE US DEFEND THEIR WORLD CUP TITLE TO WIN THEIR FOURTH WOMEN'S WORLD CUP!
90+1' Lloyd nearly gets a chance to score another goal in a World Cup Final, but a tired tackle comes in from the Dutch. Five minutes of added time have begun...
88' Lloyd on for Heath, which makes sense given how tired Heath was looking. The US are within touching distance of their fourth title now.
85' CHANCE! Remarkably, Heath does the same again. She looks exhausted to be fair, but still. Very strange. Time running out for the Dutch now.
83' CHANCE! Heath has the chance to add another, but dallies in the box. Really odd decision making. The Dutch look open at the back, but they have to go for broke now.
80' Christen Press replaces Rapinoe, who receives a great round of applause. Spitse whips a free kick, but it's just wide with Naeher diving. That would have changed things. There's still time for the Dutch here and if they score soon...
76' CHANCE! Dunn breaks into the box as the Dutch tactical approach suddenly looks like a very bad idea. The left back has Morgan open in the box, but goes alone and is denied by Van Veenendaal. A superb save by the keeper, who has probably been woman of the match.
72' CHANCES! The Dutch bring on Jill Roord and move to a 3-4-3 but the US sense a chance. First Heath, then Rapinoe and then Morgan. The Dutch have to be careful now, otherwise it could get ugly. Van de Sanden is also on now for the Netherlands.
69' GOAL! 2-0 US (Lavelle) All it takes is a misplaced pass and this final might be over. Danielle van de Donk loses out after a great tackle by Dunn, but the Dutch midfielder had the chance to get rid of it sooner. The US move foward swiftly, Rose Lavelle drops her shoulder on the edge of the box, nips forward into the space and then crashes a shot into the bottom corner. The Dutch were punished there. Brilliant from the US.
65' CHANCE! All eyes on the Dutch response. Miedema surges forward, keen to change the direction of this final all on her own. She dances in and out of US defenders, similarly to a young Zlatan at Ajax, but she takes one touch too many is eventually tackled. Should she have taken a shot earlier?
62' GOAL! 1-0 US (Rapinoe pen.) Rapinoe steps up and scores, sending it slightly left of Van Veenendaal - who doesn't move. Not a great penalty, but it doesn't matter because it's in. Six goals now for the US captain.
58' VAR check! Van de Gragt tries to block a cross from getting to Morgan, but her boot ends up clipping Morgan without any contact on the ball. Frappart takes a look - PENALTY TO THE US! Tough because the ball isn't really going anywhere and van de Gragt doesn't know she's there.
54' Martens goes up for a header with Sauerbrunn and the US defender comes down with blood running down her face. Ouch. Some US players criticising Frappart for not stopping play sooner. The US down to 10 for a minute or two here.
52' The US are in control here, and are moving the ball around but of their seven shots only 57 percent have been on target. They appear a little one dimensional, always going to Dunn and then Rapinoe. They need a few more ideas.
46' The Dutch get us restarted. Ali Krieger is on for the US, Kelley O'Hara brought off. Krieger's experience may settle the defense. The US get a corner immediately, but Ertz heads wide at the near post.
Intriguing is the word I was use to describe the first half of this World Cup Final. The US have had their moments, flexed their muscles and were it not for Van Veenendaal in the Dutch goal there might be a goal on the scoreboard. The Dutch have had fleeting moments going forward, but they've defended well and have transitioned superbly. The Netherlands have been physical too, which has unsettled the US at times. All in the balance.
45+2' Miedema uses O'Hara's absence to surge down the right and her effort wins the Dutch a corner. It's dangerous and the US have to clear in a hurry.
45+1' A collision between Martens and O'Hara sees them both land with a bump. They both need medical checks before they can continue. They've been asked to go off before coming back on, but it seems both will come back on.
43' So mild drama to end the half. Beerensteyn races forward, is brought down by Dahlkemper and the US defender is booked. The free kick comes to nothing, but the US might feel frustrated that they didn't get a free kick of their own after Rose Lavelle appeared to be felled right on the edge of the box at the other end. Not that consistent from Frappart.
40' CHANCE! The US are pushing hard now. Van Veenendaal makes yet another save as Morgan fizzes a shot in from the edge of the box.
38' CHANCES! Rapinoe swings in a cross, the US meet it ahead of Van Veenendaal but the header angles wide. The attack stays alive though, and Rapinoe is soon swinging another cross in from the left which Morgan meets and Van Veenendaal is there again, with the help of the post. Pressure building now.
36' The US keep using Dunn for the outlet ball. Seems odd that they would play it long often. They escape playing it out of the back after a mistake by Sauerbrunn, Dunn plays a ball through to Morgan. She goes down lightly, boos ring around the ground. The US get a corner. It's cleared. Slowly building...
32' Good tactical battle this, despite all the criticism of Jill Ellis not being much of a tactician. Heath seems like the outlet, and she beats Bloodworth to get a cross in but it's cleared. The US have recognized they are, as they have in most of the tournament, having a lot of joy out wide. On the other side, the Dutch have recognized that Beerensteyn's pace is a problem for the US defense. One missed tackle in those one-on-one situations could open up a lot of space.
28' CHANCE! Corner to the US, Ertz's flicks it and although it's blocked she gets to the rebound to curl it goalwards. It's a superb effort, but Van Veenendaal reacts well to palm it away. Let off for the Dutch there.
26' There is a Dutch break! A brilliant through ball sends Beerensteyn through after a misplaced pass in the midfield by the US. The ball is just beyond Beerensteyn though, and Naeher deserves a lot of credit for coming out to claim it. Good decision.
21' Heath rushes a counterattack. After nipping in to win the ball, she goes for the hasty through ball to Morgan instead of perhaps driving forward. Then Mews overhits a pass to Rapinoe, who urges for more. This is evenly balanced. If the Dutch could get themselves sorted on the break...
17' Van Veenendaal makes a good save as the US turn their control into a chance. Rapinoe's corner is headed into the mix by Heath, Lavelle turns and puts a low cross in but Van Veenendaal makes a good save. Hard to believe she won't have a club after this game.
15' That's it. The Dutch have now gone the longest of all the teams to face the US in this tournament without conceding.
12' Naeher comes out to the edge of the box to claim a through ball that might have been better served going wide. The Dutch might have to do more with the ball in those situations if they're to upset the odds here. Another attack appears, but more poor decision making ends it. The Dutch have nearly survived the opening 15.
9' Frappart is letting a lot go. The Dutch are not afraid to be physical and the US feel a little aggrieved that they haven't had a free kick yet. The US are still in control.
4' The US start on the front foot. Dunn pushes forward and nearly creates a chance in the box, but the Dutch clear. They are looking for the early goal. Rapinoe slips a ball through on the left, but again the Dutch clear. The US have scored six goals during the first 15 minutes of games at this tournament. They look likey they're going to do it again in the final.
1' The US get us started. The final game of the tournament is underway!
— Referee today is Stephanie Frappart, from France. Big moment for her. Anthems done, handshakes done (although Van Veenendaal left Rapinoe hanging twice). Time for the game!
— Out come the teams! It's nearly go time. The stadium is full, with one small patch of orange.
— Want to know how both sides got here? The AP have delivered a lovely graphic to show all of that and worth. It shows the story far better than I can write it.
— What a moment this must be for the Dutch. They lost in the first round of the knockouts to eventual finalists Japan in 2015. Now, two years after winning the Euros, they're in a World Cup Final. A great story, and this group will be hoping they can cap of a special few years with what would be a huge upset.
— With 30 minutes to go before kick off, perhaps worth considering how momentous a tournament this has been. It has been great for women's football, but it's also just been great football. Some brilliant goals, saves and a handful of really entertaining games. The hope is that future tournaments continue to draw big crowds, but pivotally that the women playing and coaching the game get the financial reward their effort deserves.
— The Dutch's social media work has been good all season, especially when you look at Ajax's Champions League season. The women's team have struck gold (or should that be orange?) with this. It thanks the US for their inspiration and it feels genuine, but the suggestion is that they feel their time has come. Clever stuff.
— Despite concerns about Lieke Martens, she is in the starting eleven. The other noticeable change is Dekker in for van Dongen in the heart of defense. Lineth Beerensteyn also gets the nod over Shanice van de Sanden.
The US team is also in. Megan Rapinoe returns to the starting line-up.Rose Lavelle is also fit enough it seems. Some US fans will be surprised that Lindsey Horan doesn't start, with Sam Mewis still in the team. Part of me thinks it won't matter though.
Netherlands XI: Van Veenendaal - Bloodworth, Van der Gragt, Dekker, Van Lunteren - Spitse, Van de Donk, Groenen - Martens, Miedema, Beerensteyn
US XI: Naeher - Dunn, Sauerbrunn, Dahlkemper, O'Hara - Mewis, Ertz, Lavelle - Rapinoe, Morgan, Heath
— The news from the Dutch press conference today is more confidence, although the fact their presser is at the same time as England's third-place playoff against Sweden is perhaps another example of some questionable decision making from the tournament organizers.
The update on Lieke Martens from head coach Sarina Wiegman doesn't sound great. "We're not sure if she can start but we're working on it... We'll decide tomorrow morning."
Wiegman was also asked whether she agrees with the US' reported arrogance. "No. The Americans have a lot of confidence and I think that's okay," Wiegman says before going on to talk about how successful the US have been.
— Despite being underdogs, the Dutch and head coach Sarina Wiegman have been confident ahead of the final.
"You can achieve more if you work well as a team. Then you don't have to be better than your opponent, you can beat
anyone," Wiegman said ahead of the game.
Midfielder Danielle van de Donk thinks being underdogs could actually work in their favor.
"I think they (the US) will underestimate us. We will show them what we are capable of and perhaps surprise them."
Strong words, but perhaps the right words against a US team everyone (including themselves) expects to win.
— Speaking at today's press conference, Megan Rapinoe has responded to Gianni Infantino's statement that World Cup prize money for the women's tournament will be doubled to €53.4m ($60m). "It certainly is not fair... FIFA doesn't care about the women's game," Rapinoe said, referring to the fact the men's prize money being at $440m for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
Rapinoe also spoke on the fact that the Women's World Cup final will be played on the same day as the Copa America and the Gold Cup finals. "That's a terrible idea to put everything on the same day, in every way."
On how the game sustains enthusiasm for the World Cup after the tournament, Rapinoe simply said: "Money, money, money... The women's game has proved time and time again, World Cup after World Cup, year after year, we're worthy of the investment."
Rapinoe did praise the US soccer federation though, despite the on-going fight about equal pay. "They have backed us tremendously... They do deserve credit for that - and we'll continue to nudge them forward."
— Good afternoon! Tomorrow, it's finally here. The World Cup final. The US have already won three. They'll be aiming for number four against a team that only qualified for its first major international tournament in 2009. The Dutch though, won the Euros just two years ago and have a whole host of playmakers. It promises to be a thriller.