By Mary Cunningham

The USA claimed its fourth Women’s World Cup title, beating the Netherlands 2-0 to repeat as world champions.

Megan Rapinoe and Rose Lavelle scored second-half goals for the United States, who needed more than an hour to solve a tenacious defensive effort by the Netherlands.

Rapinoe broke the dam with a penalty kick in the 61st minute, and Lavelle sealed the victory with a driving run up the center in the 69th.

“It’s surreal,” Rapinoe said of repeating as champions. “I don’t know how to feel. It’s ridiculous.”

It was the second straight World Cup title for a dozen of the American players, who claimed their first championship in Canada four years ago. It also cemented their status as the gold standard in women’s soccer, even as Europe — led by teams like the Netherlands — mounts a sustained assault on their crown.

The tears flowed freely after the win: from striker Alex Morgan, who tied for the tournament lead with six goals; from Kelley O’Hara, who was forced after at halftime after a scary head-to-head collision; and from the Dutch, who fought the Americans harder, and kept even with them longer, than any team at this World Cup.

The Netherlands was the only team to hold the United States off the scoreboard in the first half in France but they, like all the other teams before them — Thailand, Chile, Sweden, Spain, France and England — could not hold them off forever.

Rapinoe’s goal came after Morgan was kicked in the shoulder by Netherlands defender Stefanie van der Gragt in the penalty area, a rare loss of composure by the Dutch team. Rapinoe, Coach Jill Ellis’s preferred penalty taker, calmly stepped up and buried her attempt past goalkeeper Sari van Veenendaal, who leaned to her right but barely moved as the ball rippled the net.

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