LYON, France — As they celebrated yet another Women’s World Cup title, the United States players might have enjoyed their moment in the sun a little more than usual.
They kissed the trophy, paraded with it and even made snow angels in the blue and gold confetti that rained upon them after they secured their fourth championship with a 2-0 win over the Netherlands on Sunday at Le Stade de Lyon.
They traveled a difficult path to become the second women’s team to win back-to-back titles.
“It’s crazy, absolute crazy,” right back Kelley O’Hara said. “We feel like we did the impossible today.”
After enjoying group-stage wins over Thailand (13-0), Chile (3-0) and Sweden (2-0), the degree of difficulty turned more severe. The U.S. beat No. 13 Spain in the Round of 16, No. 4 France in the quarterfinals and No. 3 England in the semifinals before battling the eighth-ranked Netherlands.
“Winning a World Cup is probably the hardest thing you can do in football,” said O’Hara, who left at halftime with a possible concussion. “It’s a mental gymnastics the last 42 days. This is the hardest path we ever had to take to win in a major tournament.”
During those celebrations, the Americans wore commemorative jerseys. On the front, a fourth star was added. Champions, with a big 19, adorned the back.
Captain Megan Rapinoe scored the game-winner on a 61st-minute penalty kick and won the Golden Ball (MVP) and Golden Boot (top scorer with six goals). She made that path to a title easier.
Rapinoe, 34, has been a human lightning rod. She’s never one to shy away from speaking her mind, whether it’s about equal pay for women players, getting into a feud with President Trump or saying she’d never accept an invitation to visit the White House.
“I’m made for this,” she said. “I love it, I do love it. Getting to play at the highest level in a World Cup with a team like we have is ridiculous. To be able to couple that with everything off the field and to back up all those words with performances and to back up all those performances with words, it’s just incredible.”
Jill Ellis became the second coach to win two World Cups, tying Italy’s Vittorio Pozzo (men’s titles in 1934, 1938). Ellis knows how special Rapinoe is.
“Megan was built for these moments, built to be a spokesperson for others,” Ellis said. “The bigger the spotlight, the more she shines. Sometimes spotlights can burn people, but for Megan, it just highlights who she is.”
For the first time in the tournament, the U.S. didn’t score in the opening 12 minutes, enduring a sloppy first half while frustrated by stellar goalkeeper Sari van Veenendaal (seven saves). They received a break when the Video Assistant Referee ruled that Stefanie van der Gragt had fouled Alex Morgan in the box as she was kicked in her upper right arm. Rapinoe converted the penalty to van Veenendaal’s left.
Rose Lavelle, 24, provided breathing room by scoring in the 69th minute. Four years ago, she watched the U.S. win its third title.
“It’s wild on how far I’ve come,” she said. “It’s so surreal to know that I’ve just won a World Cup with people I grew up idolizing. It’s amazing.”
In an undefeated run to the World Cup, the US Women posted some pretty impressive numbers!
4 - World Cup titles for Team USA, half of all women’s World Cups
26 - goals, a World Cup record
14 - Unbeaten streak at World Cup (last loss was 2011 final vs. Japan)
12 - Winning streak (drew vs. Sweden in 2015)
34 - Megan Rapinoe’s age, the oldest player to score in a World Cup final
24 - Rose Lavelle’s age, the second youngest player to score in a World Cup final. Only teammate Alex Morgan (22, in 2011) was younger
1 - PK save by Alyssa Naeher in semifinal vs England, in a 2-1 game, perhaps the most important play of the tournament