Skip to main content
Open this photo in gallery:

It was a deserved win and the tidings from it are great for U.S. women’s soccer, but bleak for everyone else.The Associated Press

At the final whistle, the man doing play-by-play on the TV feed we get in Canada said, “Nobody does it better.” Fair enough. The United States won the World Cup with an emphatic 2-0 win over the Netherlands and, yes, nobody does it with quite the same explicit force.

It was a deserved win and the tidings from it are great for U.S. women’s soccer, but bleak for everyone else. This was the reigning World Cup champion team playing the reigning European champions, and the gulf in quality and sheer clout was conspicuous. The rest of the world has a lot of catching up to do.

For all the noise about the impudent cockiness of this U.S. team during the tournament, nobody can diminish the players’ stature or match their savvy and expertise. They’re better than all the rest.

And then there’s the vastly complicated matter of the symbolism. At a time when many Americans feel embarrassed about their country’s President and his administration, and uneasy about what the country presents to the world, this victory was a blessed relief. The U.S. women’s team thrust aside the notion of conventional femininity that is so soundly embraced in Trumpism and rejoiced in it. Star player Megan Rapinoe would be elected to Congress in a heartbeat in some states.

The Netherlands had neither time nor inclination to care about symbolism. This was going be a tense matchup, a matter of tactical nous against an overpowering opponent. And the Dutch gave the U.S. team a sterner test than any realist expected. The Americans always come out fast and hard, bamboozling their opponent with speed on the wings and force in their attacking forwards.

In every game before this, they had scored after 12 minutes. Not so, here. (Remember this: At the 2015 final in Canada, the United States was 4-0 up against Japan after 16 minutes and eventually won the game 5-2.) A terrifically organized Netherlands defended well from the start, absorbed the U.S. pressure and relied on sudden counter-attacks to keep the tempo somewhat above the hanging-on-for-dear-life gambit that characterized most teams playing the United States at the tournament.

Rapinoe was shut down by tight defending, Alex Morgan was being smothered and, yet, watching it all play out, you could see American resilience just waiting to burst into goal-scoring mode. While Rapinoe was tightly marked, Tobin Heath was a pest on the opposite flank. The Dutch did well, but after 35 minutes they were simply hanging on. The American keeper hadn’t been bothered at all.

A few minutes into the second half, after a brief spell with the Netherlands probing around the U.S. penalty area, but failing to do more than briefly rattle the U.S. defence, the stats said it all – the United States had seven shots on-target and the Dutch had one. The first goal for the United States came – inevitably it seems in this tournament – from a VAR check on a possible penalty call. The referee, who was mostly excellent, decided a high kick by Stefanie Van der Gragt, while trying to stop Morgan in the penalty area, was dangerous play. It was a dubious penalty, as anyone with long experience playing the game can tell you. Morgan reacted to the flying leg of the defender, not to actual contact. No matter, Rapinoe scored the penalty.

There was life left in the Dutch, even if it was mostly thanks to the quickness of goalkeeper Sari van Veenendaal. And then it was essentially all over. Crystal Dunn dispossessed a Dutch player with a hard but smart tackle, and the ball went to Rose Lavelle, who outclassed the Dutch defence with a couple of hip swerves and fired an unstoppable shot into the corner of the net. It was world-class, error-less skill. You could only be awed by it.

This is the United States’s fourth World Cup final appearance and second consecutive win. It scored 26 goals and it is beyond compare. How do you beat it? Not by defending and hoping for quick counter-attack goals. Only by improving. Only by being as good as the best. The United States has a huge pool of talent to choose from, but it is funding, investment, resources, belief and resilience that achieve greatness. Nobody does it better than this women’s team because nobody believes in women’s soccer with a passion that rivals that of the United States. Until the rest of the world gets serious about catching up, the U.S. won’t be caught.

Follow related authors and topics

Authors and topics you follow will be added to your personal news feed in Following.

Interact with The Globe