USWNT Outflank the Dutch, Win Their Fourth World Cup Title
Well, that was a surprise.
Not the fact that the United States Women's National Team earned a 2-0 victory over the European champion Netherlands.
The Americans are strategic grandmasters as well as skillfully elite. They did the veni, vidi, vici thing to perfection. It probably doesn't give them enough credit to say that was expected, but that was expected.
Who knew the Dutch were gonna try to catch the Americans off-guard and morph into the Swedish team?
If any side at the international level is adept at laying back and picking the right moment to counter, the Blågult -- blue and gold -- are the ultimate example. Had they made the final instead of the Oranje, this is the sorta match we'd likely have seen, only sharper.
Three factors likely figured into their tactical decision:
- Holland had one less day of rest than the USA,
- They'd played 30 minutes of extra time to make the final, and
- They'd only used 16 players the entire tournament.
As such, they probably felt their usual full-on attacking approach couldn't be sustained.
Basically. That coulda been a match for the ages.
The Americans come up against park-&-counter opponents all the time. They beat them damn near all the time. Once they got a hard look at what the Dutch were doing, they drove relentlessly to wear them down.
Ironically, USA coach Jill Ellis was wondering about wear and tear herself.
Ellis gambled that they'd be good to go long enough that she wouldn't need to burn two subs early into the proceedings.
Rapinoe's converted penalty put paid to the Dutch strategy, forcing them to do what they probably shoulda been doing in the first place. When they got their shots in the early going, the Oranje were dangerous.
Only after this goal, the Americans went into their patented 5-4-1 death-grip formation and provided the space for Lavelle's spectacular run.
With that, the USWNT has become the first female side to win four World Cups. On the men's side, Brazil's earned five; only Germany and Italy have four.
Other feats of note:
- Ellis is only the second coach to win consecutive World Cup titles, joining Italy's legendary Vittorio Pozzo, who did it in 1934 and 1938.
- Rapinoe is the second-ever player to start in three separate World Cup tournaments. The other is Germany's Birgit Prinz.
Rapinoe won both the tournament's Golden Boot and Golden Ball awards, and deservedly so.
And the USA's gone crazy for this team.
The accolades are well-deserved. The USWNT has been prominent in elevating the women's game from a novelty to mainstream and set the standard for excellence in it.
The one official celebration they've accepted is a traditional New York City ticker-tape parade. For as much as they've spread the word that women's football has arrived, it's fitting.