U.S. wins Women's World Cup on Rapinoe penalty, Lavelle goal

After four years of toil and hundreds of minutes of soccer at the 2019 Women’s World Cup, it all came down to Megan Rapinoe. To the stoic co-captain. To the transcendent personality, the face of the U.S. women’s national team – and now, after 90 minutes in Lyon, a two-time world champion.

After a tense hour-long scoreless struggle in Sunday’s World Cup final, Rapinoe stepped up to the penalty spot. Her conversion broke Dutch resistance and ultimately clinched a second consecutive title for the U.S.

Rose Lavelle’s goal eight minutes later booked the Americans a 2-0 victory over the Netherlands, and a place on the podium postgame, confetti floating above them, a trophy once again in hand.

Lavelle and 10 others will stand up there for the first time. Rapinoe and 11 others will feel familiar elation. Over the past year, they have been question, criticized, praised but also doubted. On Sunday, they emphatically capped another generation of dominance with another title.

They approached the tournament with a calculated arrogance, with the most American of attitudes: We’re better than you. We know it. We’re going to prove it. We’re going to win. And they did.

RELATED: USWNT highlights from Women's World Cup

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USWNT highlights from the Women's World Cup
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USWNT highlights from the Women's World Cup
LYON, FRANCE - JULY 07: Sari Van Veenendaal of the Netherlands reaches for the ball as Rose Lavelle of the USA scores her team's second goal during the 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup France Final match between The United States of America and The Netherlands at Stade de Lyon on July 07, 2019 in Lyon, France. (Photo by Richard Heathcote - FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images)
LYON, FRANCE - JULY 07: Alex Morgan of the USA is fouled by Stefanie Van der Gragt of the Netherlands leading to a penalty during the 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup France Final match between The United States of America and The Netherlands at Stade de Lyon on July 07, 2019 in Lyon, France. (Photo by Maja Hitij/Getty Images)
LYON, FRANCE - JULY 07: Megan Rapinoe of the USA celebrates with teammate Alex Morgan after scoring her team's first goal during the 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup France Final match between The United States of America and The Netherlands at Stade de Lyon on July 07, 2019 in Lyon, France. (Photo by Alex Caparros - FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images)
LYON, FRANCE - JULY 07: Megan Rapinoe of the USA celebrates with teammates after scoring her team's first goal during the 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup France Final match between The United State of America and The Netherlands at Stade de Lyon on July 07, 2019 in Lyon, France. (Photo by Naomi Baker - FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images)
United States' Alex Morgan, left, competes for the ball against France's Elise Bussaglia during the Women's World Cup quarterfinal soccer match between France and the United States at the Parc des Princes, in Paris, Friday, June 28, 2019. (AP Photo/Francisco Seco)
United States goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher (1) deflects the ball away from France's Valerie Gauvin during the Women's World Cup quarterfinal soccer match between France and the United States at the Parc des Princes, in Paris, Friday, June 28, 2019. (AP Photo/Francisco Seco)
United States' Megan Rapinoe celebrates after scoring her side's second goal during the Women's World Cup quarterfinal soccer match between France and the United States at the Parc des Princes, in Paris, Friday, June 28, 2019. (AP Photo/Francisco Seco)
Players of England celebrate after winning the Women's World Cup quarterfinal soccer match between Norway and England at the Oceane stadium in Le Havre, France, Thursday, June 27, 2019. (AP Photo/Francisco Seco)
United States' Kelley O Hara leaps over Sweden's Kosovare Asllani during the Women's World Cup Group F soccer match between Sweden and the United States at Stade Océane, in Le Havre, France, Thursday, June 20, 2019. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)
PARIS, FRANCE - JUNE 16: Julie Ertz of USA #8 celebrates her goal with Mallory Pugh, Lindsey Horan, Morgan Brian during the 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup France group F match between USA and Chile at Parc des Princes stadium on June 16, 2019 in Paris, France. (Photo by Jean Catuffe/Getty Images)
LE HAVRE, FRANCE - JUNE 20: Lindsey Horan of the USA scores her team's first goal the 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup France group F match between Sweden and USA at Stade Oceane on June 20, 2019 in Le Havre, France. (Photo by Alex Grimm/Getty Images)
United States' Carli Lloyd, center, celebrates with teammates after scoring their side's third goal during the Women's World Cup Group F soccer match between United States and Chile at Parc des Princes in Paris, France, Sunday, June 16, 2019. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)
Chile goalkeeper Claudia Endler lunges for the ball to make a safe during the Women's World Cup Group F soccer match between United States and Chile at Parc des Princes in Paris, France, Sunday, June 16, 2019. US won 3-0. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)
United States' Carli Lloyd celebrates after scoring the opening goal during the Women's World Cup Group F soccer match between the United States and Chile at the Parc des Princes in Paris, Sunday, June 16, 2019. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)
United States' Carli Lloyd, left, celebrates with teammates after scoring the opening goal during the Women's World Cup Group F soccer match between United States and Chile at Parc des Princes in Paris, France, Sunday, June 16, 2019. Lloyd scored twice in US' 3-0 victory. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)
United States' Megan Rapinoe, right, congratulates teammate Alex Morgan after scoring her fifth goal during the Women's World Cup Group F soccer match between the United States and Thailand at the Stade Auguste-Delaune in Reims, France, Tuesday, June 11, 2019. (AP Photo/Francois Mori)
United States' Alex Morgan, centre, scores her team's fifth goal during the Women's World Cup Group F soccer match between the United States and Thailand at the Stade Auguste-Delaune in Reims, France, Tuesday, June 11, 2019. (AP Photo/Francois Mori)
REIMS, FRANCE - JUNE 11: Mallory Pugh of USA shots to goal during the 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup France group F match between USA and Thailand at Stade Auguste Delaune on June 11, 2019 in Reims, France. (Photo by Quality Sport Images/Getty Images)
REIMS, FRANCE - JUNE 11: Megan Rapinoe of United States of America celebrates with the supporters after the 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup France group F match between USA and Thailand at Stade Auguste Delaune on June 11, 2019 in Reims, France. (Photo by TF-Images/Getty Images)
REIMS, FRANCE - JUNE 11: Mallory Pugh of the USA celebrates after scoring her team's eleventh goal during the 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup France group F match between USA and Thailand at Stade Auguste Delaune on June 11, 2019 in Reims, France. (Photo by Cathrin Mueller - FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images)
REIMS, FRANCE - JUNE 11: Final score on the scoreboard after the 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup France group F match between USA and Thailand at Stade Auguste Delaune on June 11, 2019 in Reims, France. (Photo by TF-Images/Getty Images)
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They weren’t just better than opponents. They were the greatest U.S. national team of all time, a juggernaut whose depth led defender Ali Krieger to proclaim: “We have the best team in the world, and the second-best team in the world.” One who could bench Lindsey Horan, arguably the world’s best midfielder, and still boss around elite foes.

By Sunday, among fans, the outcome seemed all but a foregone conclusion. Such is the sustained brilliance of this USWNT and those that came before it.

For months prior to the tournament, there were warnings. Proclamations that the rest of the world was catching up and closing a Title IX-inspired gap. Predictions that France would ring in a new world order in the quarterfinals, or England in the semis.

In the end, at least for now, in 2019, it was all nonsense. The Dutch held strong for 60 minutes. Around the hour mark, they succumbed to a machine unlike any other in American sports.

A tight first half

The U.S. had scored in the opening 12 minutes in each of its first six games at the 2019 World Cup. The seventh, however, was a different story. A very different story.

The Dutch, known for their attacking prowess and free-flowing 4-3-3, instead sat back in a 4-4-1-1 against the favored Americans. Viviane Miedema, their star striker, played as a No. 10. Winger Lineth Beerensteyn played up top to stretch the U.S. back-line in transition. All 10 outfield players committed to stifling the defending champs, and they largely did that. They floored Alex Morgan early, just as Spain had done three rounds ago. Their shape was unflinching.

Chances were few and far between until late in the half. Megan Rapinoe whipped in two left-footed crosses in short order. Sam Mewis met the first with a lunging header that skimmed wide off Sari van Veenendaal’s rib cage. Less than a minute later, Morgan redirected a low cross at the near post. It dribbled off van Veenendaal’s foot, and off the post.

Morgan also ripped a 20-yard shot that drew another save out of the Dutch keeper:

At the back, Becky Sauerbrunn was strong early – alert and up for physical duels. But Beerensteyn’s pace troubled her and Abby Dahlkemper as the half wore on. It ended scoreless, with all to play for after the break. And that’s when the Americans rose to the occasion.

Video review changes the game

Or, rather, they benefitted from a Dutch mistake. Dutch defender Stefanie van der Gragt wildly swung at a deflected cross. Instead, her studs caught Morgan’s shoulder.

The referee, who missed the “clear and obvious” foul in real time, went to a pitchside monitor to view the replay. After the review, without hesitance, she pointed to the penalty spot. It was fortunate, but should not be controversial.

And neither should the Americans’ victory. They weren’t perfect. They were the best team at the World Cup, and are the best team in the world. After seven consecutive victories, they’ll remain on top of it for four more years.

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Henry Bushnell is a features writer for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Question? Comment? Email him at henrydbushnell@gmail.com, or follow him on Twitter @HenryBushnell, and on Facebook.

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