The United States won its fourth Women’s World Cup title with a 2-0 victory over the Netherlands in the tournament final on Sunday.
The win makes the United States only the second nation to win back-to-back Women’s World Cup championships, joining Germany, which accomplished the feat in 2003 and 2007.
USA Held Scoreless for First Hour
The USA came into the final as a heavy favorite over a Dutch side that is the reigning European champion, but isn’t considered as strong as elite sides like France, England, and Germany. Having been forced to go through extra time in its semifinal against Sweden, and having used a smaller rotation than the Americans, many were predicting an easy win for the USA.
However, the Dutch tactically stymied the United States in the early going, becoming the first team to hold the Americans scoreless for the first 15 minutes of a match. In fact, the game would go to halftime scoreless, making this only the second time in the tournament the United States wasn’t leading at halftime (Spain had also tied the USA 1-1 in the first half of their match).
But the Dutch team appeared to be tiring late in the first half and the American chances started to come more frequently in the second. While Netherlands goalkeeper Sari van Veenendaal gave a standout performance, the USA finally had its opportunity to take a lead just over an hour into the game, when VAR awarded a penalty after Stefanie van der Gragt kicked Alex Morgan in the shoulder. Megan Rapinoe stepped up to take – and convert – her third penalty of the tournament.
“It’s surreal. I don’t know how to feel right now. It’s ridiculous,” Rapinoe said after the match. “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.”
While the Netherlands generated a few chances after opening up the game, they never seemed likely to find an equalizing goal. Then, Rose Lavelle all but put the match out of reach in the 69th minute, scoring on a shot from the edge of the box to give the Americans a 2-0 lead that would hold up until the final whistle.
“It felt like kind of over the course of the game it was hard to find that kind of space,” Lavelle told reporters after the game. “They were sitting in a little bit. So finally when there was kind of an opportunity to take space, I decided to go for it.”
Prize Pool Doubling for 2023 World Cup
Rapinoe was awarded both the Golden Boot as the tournament’s top scorer, as well as the Golden Ball as the top player of the tournament. Van Veenendaal won the Golden Glove as the tournament’s top goalkeeper.
The United States will likely be one of the favorites – if not the top choice – for the 2023 Women’s World Cup as well. Odds haven’t yet been posted for that edition of the tournament, likely both because a host hasn’t been determined yet, and because FIFA is considering expanding the tournament from 24 to 32 teams.
One thing that will change is the prize money available. After a Women’s World Cup in which pay equity issues took center stage, FIFA has decided to double the prize money for the 2023 edition to $60 million – a significant increase, but still far short of the $440 million that will be awarded at the 2022 World Cup.