The European game had hoped to demonstrate in France this past month that it has caught up with women’s football’s outstanding nation but the evidence of the tournament endgame suggests that the gulf may be unbreachable for a fair while yet.
For 45 minutes, a valiant and indefatigable Holland repelled all that the reigning champions had to throw at them, in a performance which suggested that Phil Neville’s England may have their work cut out in the European Championships held on English soil, two years from now.
But as day follows night, the American breakthrough came. By the hour mark Megan Rapinoe was reprising her gladiatorial stance – arms wide on the corner of the pitch – which has somehow come to encapsulate her nation’s supreme self-belief.
The USA won their fourth Women’s World Cup title on Sunday, defeating Holland 2-0 in Lyon to claim back-to-back titles
The Americans raise the trophy into the air in celebration after their dominant victory over the Dutch in Lyon
Megan Rapinoe celebrates scoring her side’s first goal of the game during the Women’s World Cup final win over Holland
Stefanie van der Gragt did not see Morgan as she turned and tried to clear the ball but only made contact with the American
After originally giving the Americans a corner, the VAR urged referee Stephanie Frappart to look at the incident on screen
It took just a handful of replays to get the French referee to overturn her decision as she handed the US a chance from 12 yards
Rapinoe showed great composure to steady herself during the VAR break and then dispatch her spot kick into the corner
Rose Lavelle completed her magnificent tournament with the second goal of the afternoon from the edge of the box
Lavelle dropped to her knees in celebration and let out a huge roar of delight after putting her team further ahead
USA: Naeher, O’Hara (Krieger 45), Dahlkemper, Sauerbrunn, Dunn, Mewis, Ertz, Lavelle, Heath (Lloyd 86), Morgan, Rapinoe (Press 78).
Subs not used: Harris, Pugh, Brian, Horan, Davidson, Sonnett, Long, McDonald, Franch.
Goals: Rapinoe 61, Lavelle 69
Holland: Van Veenendaal, Van Lunteren, Dekker (van de Sanden 73), van der Gragt, Bloodworth, Groenen, van de Donk, Spitse, Beerensteyn, Miedema, Martens (Roord 70).
Subs not used: Kop, van Dongen, Van Es, Pelova, Renate Jansen, Kaagman, Ellen Jansen, Kerkdijk, van der Most, Geurts.
Bookings: Spitse, van der Gragt
Referee: Stephanie Frappart
The Dutch, who did not play at a World Cup finals until 2015, can reflect on distance travelled and a travelling support base way beyond England’s. Yet they were on their knees by an end which could not come soon enough.
The Dutch had the same feelings about the US arrogance as England had, heading into the match.
‘They’re basically already congratulating us on finishing in second place,’ midfielder Danielle Van de Donk had said. And for 45 minutes the team’s ability to cope defensively was in a different stratosphere to Phil Neville’s players.
The Netherlands brought pace, organisation and physicality, with Sherida Spitse’s early booking the price of two tackles which were a signal of Dutch intent.
Megan Rapinoe, back to captain the overwhelming favourites, found centre half Anouk Dekker in a foot-race with her down the US left. Rapinoe barged Dekker. Dekker barged her back. Rapinoe fell to the turf. The US contingent howled with indignation. And play moved on.
There were levels of organisation we’ve simply not seen from England – right back Desiree van Lunteren doubling up to support Dekker, in a monumental contribution of her own to the effort to repel Rapinoe.
The US captain’s two whipped low crosses provided two chances in as many first half minutes but goalkeeper Sari van Veenendaal saved sharply with her foot: part of a monumental contribution which kept the scoreline in check.
Fans packed into Stade de Lyon for the final and rose to their feet for the national anthems of both teams before kick-off
French president Emmanuel Macron was pictured with Paris Saint-Germain star Kylian Mbappe ahead of the game
Dutch midfielder Sherida Spitse competes in the air with Megan Rapinoe, who was given the all-clear to start the final
Referee Frappart shows a yellow card to Spitse very early on in the game for a late challenge on the ever-impressive Lavelle
Neutral fans booed Alex Morgan’s decision to go down in the box after a nudge in the back from Dominique Bloodworth
The best of her half dozen saves came when Julie Ertz’s vision had provided Alex Morgan with the chance to unleash the power of her right foot and she leapt to palm away. Out of contract, Van Veenendaal should surely be an immediate WSL target in the days ahead.
That first half was not exactly Brilliant Orange, to cite David Winner’s study of the creative genius which once turned the Dutch men’s team into one of the world’s best.
The European side have one of the world’s outstanding forwards in Arsenal Vivianne Miedema but the Arsenal star could not make an impression and the European looked panicked when they reached the final third.
Sari van Veenendaal was in inspired form at the Dutch, making a series of excellent saves to keep the Americans at bay
Lineth Beerensteyn drove past American defender Abby Dahlkemper, forcing her to bring down the forward and get booked
Kelley O’Hara and Lieke Martens lie on the turf after a sickening clash of heads that led to them both needing treatment
Becky Sauerbrunn shows off her battle wounds after cutting open her head following an aerial collision with an opponent
Van der Gragt launches herself towards Morgan before making contact with her midriff and forcing her to go down
It’s why the penalty which sent the Americans on their way just before the hour mark always looked so ominous.
The defence was finally drawn into an error in the stifling afternoon heat – defender Stefanie van Der Gragt raising a boot to block a high ball for Morgan and placing studs high on the forward’s arm – and the VAR deliberation was uncomplicated.
The second goal was champion class – a run through the heart of the Dutch midfield by Rose Lavelle, architect of semi-final victory over England. She bisected Van Der Gragt and Dekker as she raced into the area and delivered her clinical, punishing finish into the bottom right-hand corner before Van Veenendaal could move.
Frappart wasted no time in awarding the US a corner while Morgan lay on the ground in pain following the high tackle
The French referee was urged to review the decision on her pitch-side monitor and she quickly ran over to correct her call
Rapinoe took her goal tally to six, moving her level at the top of the scoring charts with Morgan and England’s Ellen White
The Dutch defence opened up far too easily as Lavelle drove through the gaps and then fired across goal and into the corner
She ran to celebrate with her team-mates as the Americans closed in on their fourth Women’s World Cup success
Jill Ellis emotionally congratulates her team after their victory as they gathered in a team huddle to celebrate their success
The US would have been out of sight had Tobin Heath, fed by Rapinoe, finished after cutting inside the desperately tiring Van der Gragt and shaped to shoot. Spitse arrived with a monumental challenge.
Rapinoe fed Crystal Dunn who cut inside Van der Gragt and brought another fine save from Van Veenendaal. The goalkeeper had saved twice more before the US coronation was confirmed.
The United States become only the second nation to retain their World Cup crown. Four years is a long time in football but Europe has its work cut out if it is to ward off a treble.