U.S. women top Holland to lift record fourth soccer World Cup

LYON, France (AP) — The United States women’s soccer team was as good as the American players had promised — maybe even better.

Especially Megan Rapinoe, the captain who emerged with the Golden Ball as top player after missing the semifinal vs. England with an injury, the Golden Boot as top scorer and a worldwide stature as a champion for gender equity.

The U.S. won its record fourth Women’s World Cup title and second in a row, beating the Netherlands 2-0 Sunday when Rapinoe converted a tie-breaking penalty kick in the second half and Rose Lavelle added a goal.

Rapinoe scored in the 61st minute after a video review determined Stefanie van der Gragt had fouled Alex Morgan with a high kick to in the penalty area.

Two days past her 34th birthday, Rapinoe slotted the ball past goalkeeper Sari van Veenendaal for her sixth goal of the tournament. The oldest player to score in a Women’s World Cup final, she struck a familiar victorious pose with arms outstretched.

“It’s surreal. I don’t know how to feel right now. It’s ridiculous,” Rapinoe said. “We’re crazy, and that’s what makes us so special. We just have no quit in us. We’re so tight, and we’ll do anything to win.”

Lavelle, at 24 the team’s up-and-coming star, added her third goal of the tournament on an 18-yard left-footed shot in the 69th after a solo run from the center circle. “She’s a superstar, not even in the making — she’s straight-up superstar at this point,” Rapinoe said of Lavelle.

Fans, many dressed in red, white and blue, chanted “Equal Pay!” at the final whistle, a reminder that players sued the U.S. Soccer Federation in March claiming gender discrimination.

Rapinoe drew the ire of President Donald Trump during the tournament by saying she and teammates would refuse to visit the White House. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio needed just a few seconds after the final whistle to invite the team to a ticker-tape parade up the Canyon of Heroes in Manhattan on Wednesday.

The Americans never trailed in the tournament and set records with 26 goals and a 12-game World Cup winning streak dating to 2015. U.S. coach Jill Ellis became the first coach to lead a team to two Women’s World Cup titles, and the U.S. joined Germany in 2003 and 2007 as the only repeat champions.

“It’s just chemistry. They put their hearts and soul into this journey,” Ellis said. “They made history.”

Soccer governing body FIFA’s president, Gianni Infantino, handed over the trophy, a stark contrast to four years ago in Canada, when the organization’s then-president, Sepp Blatter, was a no-show as U.S. prosecutors investigated corruption. While the U.S. with the World Cup win adds a fourth star to its jersey, Germany is the only nation that has even two.

With confidence and brashness that some called arrogance — triggering a backlash that the angry response was sexist — this American team established a standard of excellence that exceeded the U.S. champions of 1991, 1999 and 2015. Former American players joined the current generation on the field for the postgame celebration.

Alyssa Naeher, the 31-year-old who succeeded Hope Solo in goal, faced repeated questions entering the tournament but allowed just three goals in the tournament and finished Sunday with her fourth clean sheet.

The U.S. had scored within the first 12 minutes of its previous six matches in the tournament, but the Dutch side sat back to keep their defensive shape and kept the score 0-0 through the first half.

Video review, also set to be used by FIFA for the men’s World Cup last year, showed its impact when Stephanie Frappart, the first woman to referee a men’s match in France’s Ligue 1, went to the screen at the side of the field and emerged signaling toward the spot.

Rapinoe, who missed Tuesday’s semifinal win over England with a hamstring injury, became the first woman to score on a penalty kick during a Women’s World Cup final, her 50th goal in 158 international appearances. She matched teammate Alex Morgan and England’s Ellen White for most goals in the tournament and won the Golden Ball based on fewer minutes played.

Rapinoe was given a standing ovation when she was subbed out in the 79th minute. The audience of 57,900 at Stade de Lyon for Le Grand Finale included French President Emmanuel Macron.

The Americans opened the tournament with a record 13-0 rout of lowly Thailand, triggering debate over whether the celebrations after each goal were excessive. Morgan responded at the next match by following a goal with a polite golf clap. Then she stirred it up again when she scored against England with a pantomimed tea sip, pinkie outstretched.

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