Now, for one final women’s World Cup ramble: a tribute to the champions.
Ramble of the Day
The United States arrived to the World Cup with a difficult task: do what only one team has done by successfully defending it, and do so with a target on their backs and the rest of the world catching up to them. In the buildup, it felt different levels of certain; some days, very much and other days, not so much. At the start of the World Cup, too, it was the same; easily beating Thailand and Chile meant the team was making a statement, but neither match was truly indicative of how well the U.S. would stack up against better teams.
We got answers quickly. The tournament’s eventual bronze medalists, Sweden, were relatively easily handled. A meeting with Spain in the Round of 16 was quite the opposite; doubts about the abilities of goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher and head coach Jill Ellis arrived, and perhaps the team was lucky to win in 90 minutes. Soon, though, the U.S. proved that despite their imperfections, they really were the number one team in the world; matters were tight against France, England, and the Netherlands, but the team did prevail on each occasion, never by large margins but obviously ones large enough. The end result was for some inevitable, but regardless unprecedented.
Along the way, the team did ruffle a few feathers, but it may not be part of the 2019 champions’ legacy. Most immediately, the final’s goal scorers Megan Rapinoe and Rose Lavelle enjoyed their star turns; for Lavelle, it may be the first of others, while Rapinoe enjoyed it as a veteran likely at the sport’s biggest stage for the final time. In a long-term sense, the U.S. has demonstrated its status as a true power of women’s football, and is creating its own cultural moment in more ways than one. Final opponents the Netherlands acknowledged the team’s ability to inspire for generations, and they continue to create a cultural moment of their own, perhaps becoming America’s first relevant football team.
The dominance may not last forever, and the sport will be better if it doesn’t. However, it is hard to question that, for at least the time being, the team remains women’s football’s best.
tl;dr: The U.S. women’s national team may not be perfect, but it is obviously very good.
Links of the Day
Neymar did not show up for Paris Saint-Germain’s first day of preseason, while Antoine Griezmann has done the same for Atlético Madrid’s first preseason training session.
Transfer updates: Aston Villa has signed Tyrone Mings from Bournemouth; Leicester has signed Youri Tielemans following a loan from Monaco; Shanghai SIPG has signed Marko Arnautovic from West Ham; Burnley has signed Erik Pieters from Stoke; Bournemouth has signed Jack Stacey from Luton Town
Today’s longer read: Suzanne Wrack on the talented, reserved but outspoken, trailblazing Karen Carney for The Guardian