The stage was set, the script was written, despite the strong defensive work from the Dutch over the first hour, it was ultimately for naught. No team had lit the tournament alight but the Americans were always there, persisting and winning, too much for every team to handle.
Up against a Dutch team no one gave have a chance to, the three (now four-time) world champions, were left frustrated during the opening exchanges, the Dutch loosening as the first half wore on. But, every time the Americans looked to get a toe in the door, Sari van Veenendaal hastily slammed it shut again, keeping the two teams deadlocked at the break. The turning point in the match, a high boot from Stefanie van der Gragt that drew a VAR-assisted penalty, Megan Rapinoe deadly from the spot yet again this tournament to go top of the Golden Boot rankings. Looking for an immediate response, the European champions attacked with vest but left themselves exposed for a devastating Rose Lavelle goal to take the match out of reach.
Unable to get close again, the Oranje wasted their better chances over the 90 minutes but reminded everyone that this American team, despite their success, would have been beatable if anyone nation had brought their a-game against them.
The fourth World Cup title sees the USA pull away of any other challengers but with an aging squad that has a touch of the Golden Generation about it, there are questions about what happens next with who is or isn’t coming through. But as ever, the US collegiate pipeline will surely supply the replacements – Mal Pugh and Tierna Davidson a reminder of the endless production line.
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