LYON, France – Megan Rapinoe, who wasn't expected to start Sunday's Women's World Cup final because of a hamstring issue, wound up winning it instead, calmly slotting home a penalty kick in the 61st minute to start the U.S. on its way to a 2-0 win over a stubborn team from the Netherlands before a sellout crowd at Stade de Lyon.
With the win the U.S. becomes just the second team to win consecutive Women's World Cups and the first country to win the title four times.
Rapinoe has been the heart and soul of two of those championship teams, all the while dodging critics at home – including President Donald Trump -- who have taken issue with her on certain public stances.
One of seven players on the U.S. roster who have suited up for the last three Women's World Cup finals, Rapinoe, who turned 34 on Friday, willed the Americans to this championship, scoring five of the team's eight goals in the elimination rounds and finishing the tournament with six, giving her a share of the scoring lead. She won the Golden Ball as the MVP of the World Cup and also the Golden Boot as the tournament's top scorer.
The penalty came after Dutch defender Stefanie van der Gragt struck Alex Morgan with her right leg in the 18-yard box as the two battled for a cross. Van der Gragt did not touch the ball, hitting the right shoulder of Morgan, who went down. After consulting a video review, French referee Stephanie Frappart came back on the field and pointed at the spot, awarding the U.S. a penalty kick.
Rapinoe, the Americans' best penalty-taker, had no problems converting it.
And then with the Dutch pushing for an equalizer, Rose Lavelle, one of 11 World Cup debutantes on the U.S. roster, doubled the advantage in the 69th minute. The goal was Lavelle's third of the tournament.
The final score would have been much worse without a terrific game by Sari van Veenendaal, the Netherlands' keeper and captain, who repeatedly frustrated the Americans with acrobatic saves.
The U.S. never trailed in the tournament and Lavelle's goal gave them 26 in France, breaking the record for a single Women's World Cup. The win also extended the Americans' unbeaten streak to 17 games in World Cup play dating to 2011. The last 12 were wins.
For the Dutch, the reigning European champions, the spot in the final came in just the country's second Women's World Cup. And they acquitted themselves well, losing only to top-ranked U.S.
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