LYON, France — The United States won a record-extending fourth women's World Cup with a 2-0 victory over the Netherlands on Sunday as second-half goals from Megan Rapinoe and Rose Lavelle confirmed their status as the leading power in the women's game.
The defending champions struggled to gain dominance for an hour before a Rapinoe penalty, her sixth goal of the tournament, broke the deadlock and a fine individual effort from Lavelle in the 69th minute put the outcome beyond doubt.
The Dutch ran out of steam after Rapinoe opened the scoring in the 61st minute.
It was a perfect occasion for Rapinoe, whose outspoken views have been prominent, especially on the pay disparity between men and women players, was capped when FIFA chief Gianni Infantino was greeted with chants of "equal pay, equal pay" by American fans.
At 34, Rapinoe is unlikely to be back on this stage in four years' time, but it is hard to imagine her walking away from the battles she has led with the U.S. Soccer Federation and world governing body FIFA over fairer terms for the women's game.
However, amid the firework celebrations after the final whistle, Rapinoe's thoughts were on her team's triumph -- its second in a row after the 2015 victory in Canada.
"It's like history. I don't know how to feel right now. It is ridiculous," said Rapinoe. "We're crazy, that's what makes us special. We just have no quit in us. We are so tight. We will do anything to win."
The purple-haired winger was back in the starting lineup after sitting out the 2-1 semifinal win over England with a slight muscle strain.
The Dutch made an aggressive start, with some strong challenges, and midfielder Sherida Spitse picked up a booking in the 10th minute for a lunging challenge on Lavelle. The U.S. had scored in the opening 12 minutes of every previous game at this tournament, but it took nearly five times that long to score in the title match.
Encouraged by their first half resilience, the Dutch stuck with the their tenacious approach after the break but their aggression proved to be their downfall.
Stefanie van der Gragt's foot caught Morgan's upper arm after a high challenge in the box and the American fell to the ground. After initially awarding a corner, the French referee turned to the video review and then gave a penalty.
Rapinoe took the responsibility and coolly slotted the ball past the almost stationary Van Veenendaal to bring to life the large American contingent in the capacity crowd of 57,900.
"This team is something special, and to do it back-to-back is pretty incredible," U.S. strike Alex Morgan said. "We had a hard route to the final. I’m just proud of this team."
Lavelle then took the game directly to the Dutch - bursting out of midfield towards the heart of the defense and dropping her shoulder to the left before unleashing a sweet shot into the bottom corner to make it 2-0.
"This is an amazing group of players but even better group of people," U.S. coach Jill Ellis said. "Just fantastic resiliency, chemistry. They put their heart and soul into this journey and I cannot thank them enough. They made history."