By Arnie Leshin
Estados Unidos La Champion del Mundo. Viva La United States.
In France, it’s usually customary to wine, dine, check out the picturesque views and, if you are a tourist from the United States, have to listen to the abuse sent your way.
But for the USA women’s soccer team, most of their time was spent on the pitch, either practicing or disposing of another nation, having fun, and counting the days until they carried off what theycame for.
Brimming with confidence and fielding the top-seeded, reigning World Soccer Cup champions, the wait for a fourth title arrived when the clock struck 94:09 and the hugs began among the Americans players and coaches and trainers on their sideline.
Soon after, the final whistle sounded and the red, white and blue contingent began celebrating its fourth World Cup, second in a row, and third since 2007, losing in the 2011 final to Japan.
In any language, it was Esados Unidos 2, Holamda 0, but in United States lingo it was 2-0, and its seventh victory that began with winning all three of its Group F knockout matches. From there, the Stars and Stripes soared past Spain, France, England and now the Netherlands while outscoring their victims, 26-3.
They never needed a second of extra time, were never threatened, never trailed, and in time of possession, had an astounding 442 out of 630 minutes (70.2 percent of the time, a number that may be changed by future soccer historians).
Essentially, the USA did everything it promised to do, and believed it could when landing in France, and declared that due to its depth of talent and experience, were there to fly away with another championship. It was indicative of a World Cup where the American side was almost never threatened
The game, 8th ranked Netherlands were a game opponent that had slipped past 9th ranked Sweden, 2-1, in the Thursday semifinals in Nice. In the 3rdplace match in the same stadium Saturday, the Swedes got post England, 2-1.
In the final, at Stade de Lyon Stadium in Lyon, it was scoreless after the first half. The Dutch, who finished with this one loss in seven starts, were physical and determined, but the reigning European champions learned that the talent difference on the field was marked.
So when it could be said that veteran Megan Rapinoe’s penalty kick in the 61st minute broke the game open, and was followed by Rose Lavelle’s well-timed shot into the goal eight minutes later, it took some light and fight out of the Dutch after tough, hard-fought, even bloody times.
Even when it was scoreless for much of the match that brought an announced packed house of 57,970, the United States controlled most of the action, and most of the quality scoring opportunities.
They became just another team for the USA to steamroll in a tournament that saw the Americans defeat the countries ranked third, fourth, eighth, ninth and 13th in the world.
As for how this gritty USA team ranks in history, it has fielded some all-time super teams, but perhaps none can match this level, let alone the sheer depth of ability. It is a sport that grows by leaps and bounds every World Cup cycles, and who knows what the red, while and blue will bring the next time around.
But this was a complete show of strength by the United States, a sign of how the country has so many stellar athletes playing youth soccer, that head coach Jill Ellis has an embarrassment of riches to chose from. This team brought the World Cup program’s win streak to 13 in what was the 52nd match that brought the event to an end.
In the overall statistics, the USA had a 52 percent possession edge to 48 percent for the Dutch. The Americans got away 17 shots to six for the Nethetlands, 9-1 on target, and each team had three blocks. In fouls, it was 9-7 USA, in yellow cards, it was 2-1 United States, with no red cards. The red, white and blue led in corner kicks, 8-2, and 12-8 in free kicks.
The celebration wound down with the United States of America contingent upon a huge, flashy, colorful, dressed up as a podium with a catchy “Dare to Shine” notice on its front, and the players in full voice emphasized by USA, USA, USA.