USA vs Netherlands – The Queen defends her crown as USA lifts back-to-back World Cup trophies in a 2-0 shutout win.

A bit ironic that the two teams who made the Women’s World Cup Final are also two nations whose men’s teams didn’t even qualify for their own tournament. It seems like there shouldn’t be such a huge difference between a nations men’s and women’s teams, but of course, we know that isn’t the case.

But today isn’t about that.

It’s about both these teams who fought with blood and sweat to earn their place in the final. For USA, it was a headline making, tea-sipping, record setting World Cup campaign that brought them here. For the Netherlands, it was a tough fought, close-call, hard-earned path to the final. Both deserve to be here equally.

These teams enter the final with two contrasting tactical philosophies. The US would come out high flying, rushing forward, in an attempt to overwhelm their opposition with individual skill. The Netherlands sought to defend with discipline, keeping the match close, in an attempt to nick a win at the very end.

Which would win out?

First Half

Another bright start for the Americans. It was all one way in the first 10 minutes. USA dominated possession, controlled the midfield, and danced around the goal, often choosing to play more direct in an attempt open up the Netherlands defense early. But no openings goal came for the Americans for the first time this tournament.

The more USA surged forward, the more the Netherlands were able to bunker down and defend, constantly looking for a small openings to counter attack the US. On several occasions they had slight glimpses of a chance on goal, but none of them challenged the keeper much.

It’s no surprise that the first half was a bit of a cagey affair—typical of a tournament final. The real surprise was the tactical defending decisions Netherlands had made in preparation for today. Defending in a 4-4-2, the Netherlands were successful in keeping numbers behind the ball and frustrating the Americans in attack.

As the final minutes ticked away in the half, the US slowly continued to turn up the pressure on Netherlands, asking more and more questions of the Dutch defense. It was all heads and tails in the 38th minute when it took two goal line saves by the Dutch keeper to keep the match scoreless before halftime.

Some questionable calls by the ref in stoppage time of the first half gave the Netherlands several opportunities in a row to put a goal in right before the whistle, but American keeper Alyssa Naeher was able to hold fast to keep it scoreless.

Second Half

Before diving into the 2nd half, I want to make a quick comment on how abysmal the refereeing was for the final. Several clearly questionable calls before the half started to let things get a bit wild. Luckily the half was able to calm tempers, but right as the teams returned to the field, the ref was once again missing clear calls, even ignoring a bad injury to the head of a player as blood rushed from her face. She waved her hands to get the ref to stop play, but the ref was oblivious to it all. Shameful.

Finally, after a number of horrible challenges on American players, it took the line judge and VAR to get the ref to see what everyone else in the stadium saw: a high boot challenge on Alex Morgan resulting in a penalty.

From that moment, it was all routine for the Americans. Rapinoe stepped over the ball. Having buried 2 previous pks in the bottom left. She eyed the same spot again, sending the keeper to the left, before going the other way and bludgeoning the ball into the bottom right corner.

That was all the Americans needed. From that opening goal, they continued to build in confidence and energy. Every time they were in possession, it felt like they were going to do something spectacular with it. They pushed forward, split the defenders with ease, and continued to ask questions of the Dutch keeper.

It was in 69th minute that American midfielder, Rose Lavelle, got the ball and drove forward through the center of the park directly towards the Dutch backline. With the defenders back pedaling, Lavelle rolled the ball on her deadly left foot before sizing up the keeper, putting the ball past her with a pacey shot to the far post. 2-nill.

Up by two goals, it was the US’s match to close out. The Americans happily played keep away from the Netherlands, letting them chase after the ball all over the pitch. The more and more the Dutch tried to score, the easier it was for the US to grind out the win. The Dutch were so exposed at the back, allowing the US to play long balls behind and waste so much time off the clock.

A cleansheet win for the Americans to lift the World Cup trophy.

A New Era

Seven of the eight quarter-finalists were European nations with the only odd one out being the USA. When it comes to the women’s game, America has built a dynasty. Three cup finals in a row and back to back WC wins.

Even better yet, out of the eight Women’s World Cups that have existed, starting in 1991, the USA has won half of them. With Germany, Japan and Norway being the only three other nations who have won it.

I don’t say this to brag, although the women deserve the recognition. I say this so others understand that today wasn’t just a win. It wasn’t just about lifting a trophy. Or about another star above the crest.

Today’s win was about creating a legacy, a dynasty, and propelling the women’s game to new heights. It’s about sending a message to the world: if you want to lift a Women’s World Cup Trophy, you are going to need to invest more, care more, and strive for more. It’s about inspiring others to do the same.

With today’s win, there’s no doubt that the US Women have now become the most hated team in the world when it comes to the women’s game, if they weren't already. The USA is a team everyone loves to hate, and that’s just A-OKAY with me.

But I want to see someone challenge the US to lift a trophy. I want another nation to show the world they care about the women’s game just as much as we do. That would make me very happy.

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