World Cup·Analysis

World Cup win shows U.S. women playing in class of their own

The Americans don’t hope to win. They expect to. There is a confidence, bordering on arrogance, taken into every contest. The U.S. throws down the gauntlet and dares its opponent to rebel.

Megan Rapinoe rises to occasion as VAR review correctly identifies penalty kick

Megan Rapinoe, centre, celebrates with teammates after the U.S. defeated the Netherlands 2-0 in the World Cup final on Sunday in France. (David Vincent/Associated Press)

Don't let me hear your moan about VAR ever again.

It is there for a reason. It works when the referee cannot be certain.

It was the correct turning point that allowed Team USA to be crowned women's World Cup champions. The breakthrough took an hour, but the game itself was never in doubt. Had the Americans won by five or six, few would have argued with the score line.

The Americans don't hope to win. They expect to. There is a confidence, bordering on arrogance, taken into every contest. The U.S. throws down the gauntlet and dares its opponent to rebel.

WATCH | Americans defend Women's World Cup title:

Megan Rapinoe scored the game-winner for the United States in the World Cup final to secure their fourth World Cup title in a 2-0 win over the Netherlands. 1:41

The Dutch were out of their depth. A long way out.

The only reason they kept it respectable was a stellar performance from their goalkeeper. Sari Van Veenendaal must have bruises all over her body after being peppered with shots from hungry American predators.

To their credit, the Netherlands were brave. The Dutch kept their nerve and survived longer than anyone else with a robust, physical style to foil the Americans' superior technical ability and intensity.

Megan Rapinoe poses with her individual awards following the women's World Cup final on Sunday. (Francisco Seco/Associated Press)

But it was only a matter of time before the Americans got their reward. A VAR review correctly identified a penalty kick and Megan Rapinoe rose to the occasion. Cool, calm and collected the U.S. skipper gave her team the lead it richly deserved. 

The writing was on the Dutch wall. The admirable energy displayed by the European Champions began to desert them and when Rose Lavelle doubled the lead with a splendid run and left foot rocket less than 10 minutes later, the deal was sealed.

Wave after wave of American attacks could and should have produced more. Tobin Heath, Alex Morgan and Crystal Dunn were all guilty of spurning golden opportunities to extend the advantage in the closing stages.

In stark contrast, the Dutch offered virtually nothing offensively. It took them 77 minutes to register their one and only tame shot on target. Their effort was commendable, but they were only allowed to play as well as the American would permit.

This was not a close contest. The Netherlands' women's program has advanced at an impressive rate in the last three years but this World Cup final was a step too far, too soon. Their Olympic debut next summer will be closely monitored.

The USA is operating in a class of its own. It is impossible to argue with the facts. The class of 2019 scored 26 goals in seven games (half of them in one game) but conceded just three in France, matching its own defensive record from 2015.

Focus shifts to 2020

It is a relentless machine. The Americans' next target is to reclaim its Olympic crown in 2020 after a rare miss in Rio. It will be a smaller field in Tokyo (just 12 nations compete) and few would bet against another USA Gold medal.

There are a couple of other takeaways from France 2019.

Apart from the obvious emergence of Holland, the Swedish revival was rewarded with a bronze medal. The team that shocked the USA in Brazil proved tough to beat and the Scandinavians can plan for another Olympic journey.

England's stock continues to rise. For the second successive World Cup, the Lionesses lost heartbreaking semifinals but the bulk of this roster will compete under the Team Great Britain banner in Japan next year.

Canada has stagnated. It has not moved forward as the Dutch and the Brits have moved forward. The Canadians let themselves down — they meekly left the stage as Christine Sinclair's body clock ticks down towards the inevitability of retirement.

Down South, the party is in full swing. To the surprise of no one, the USA is a World Champion again. The Americans cantered to a 4th world title. In women's soccer they are simply the best.

Look out for the celebration on the White House lawn. Altogether now: Yoo-Ess-Eh!

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