The United States women have predictably stuck to the script to claim their fourth Fifa World Cup in France.

In doing so, the Americans chalked up a rash of milestones not just on the field but, more importantly, off it.

Super stuff, actually. You seldom find teams who are able to walk the talk and, along the way, make the leaders of their country eat their words.

It was obvious from day one that any team that harboured a desire to claim the bragging rights to the biggest women's team sport in the globe had to ultimately prove their worth against the Yanks. Some came close but none had the composure to do the unthinkable.


Even the Netherlands, succumbing 2-0 in the final, had an orange army behind them but sadly adopted a bunker mentality to try to prove to the world they could stop the Americans from scoring in the first 15 minutes against all opposition. The Dutch won that battle but lost the war on account of adopting a sit-back and counter-attack policy that last worked admirably when Italy striker Paolo Rossi scored a hattrick to boot a star-studded Brazil out in the second round of the men's Fifa World Cup in 1982.

But my preoccupation is with the women who packed out the stadia in France and wooed enviable TV audiences around the world to demand, through American co-skipper Megan Rapinoe, equal pay rights.

The US side is fighting a lawsuit to be paid compatibly as their male counterparts. No doubt, a favourable outcome will have a major impact on the drive to end the gender wage gap, not just in football but every other code globally in the mould of the #MeToo movement.

Golden boot striker Rapinoe, the gay co-skipper of the US team, was embroiled in a political football match of her own with President Donald Trump when she turned down any suggestions of attending the White House on winning the cup.

"Megan should WIN first before she TALKS! Finish the job!" Trump had reportedly tweeted before inviting the team, win or lose, to his official residence at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave, Washington, DC.

That drew the lines of engagement and the rest is history.

The US women also celebrated like they didn't care. Silver boot winner Alex Morgan caused a stir with her teacup gesture after scoring the winner in the 2-1 win over England in the semifinals. It drew not only the ire of the incumbent English players but also their former internationals openly expressing a desire to physically put the boot into them.

My take — take a bow US and celebrate how you want to because you've earned the right to do so on the world's biggest stage.


I'm also for the concerted drive to address all the disparities piling up in the dimly-lit corridors of the male domains.

However, what concerns me on the pitch is what I have considered to be preferential treatment accorded to the Americans.

Don't get me wrong. For Rapinoe and co to have any political clout required nothing short of success, as Trump had alluded to, so going all the way was imperative for the greater cause.

Nevertheless, I watched some games during the World Cup that suggested the officials, including the video assistant referees (VAR), also were in the Americans' corner.

While seeking fiscal equality with men is inevitable, women should be careful of where their game is headed.

I have always championed the women's elite stage, especially the age-group ones, as the epitome of the beautiful game.

The subdued Dutch didn't deserve gold medals in the final against the United States but they certainly did a fair rub of the green at Groupama Stadium, Lyon, France. Photo/Photosport
The subdued Dutch didn't deserve gold medals in the final against the United States but they certainly did a fair rub of the green at Groupama Stadium, Lyon, France. Photo/Photosport

I'm afraid the World Cup in France showed the women have caught up with the blokes when it comes to crude tackles, shirt-grabbing, faking injuries and diving.

I blame the men's World Cup in Russia last year for that. Players were offered the licence to rugby tackle opponents and then slapped with a wet bus ticket when crowds started baying for blood.

Rapinoe, who got the US over the line with two penalty kicks in the 2-1 win over Spain, should never have got the 61st-minute penalty in the final after French referee Stephanie Frappart had initially awarded a cornerkick before reversing her decision following a VAR check.

If you look at the replay of the footage, co-skipper Morgan had lunged into defender Stefanie van der Gragt's high-foot clearance to milk a penalty after copping a kick in her ribs.

To put that into context, I recall watching French centreback Wendie Renard kicking a ball in her 18m box and connecting with the noggin of an opponent who got up groggily to clutch her head but that incident didn't even make it to the VAR. Numerous examples of double standards are obvious in myriad cup matches.

All you want is consistency from officials and it's not surprising to find countless players arguing with refs over decisions that went the way of not just the US but elite nations.

For example, in the final Frappart put on a stern school marm expression before flashing a yellow card at Dutch defender Sherida Spitse for a challenge on Rose Lavelle in the 10th minute, when a trailing boot clipped the American's leg from behind following a sliding tackle.

The next passage of play saw American Julie Ertz make a sprigs-up, lunging tackle with her right foot on Dominque Bloodworth and, on missing, backed it up with a left sprigs-up, toe-crunching stomp on the Dutchwoman's left foot and Frappart just awarded a freekick.

There's inconsistency right there to justify Dutch frustrations.

In the 17th minute, Rapinoe and defender Anouk Dekker ran into the Dutch 18m box and the American came off second best in the shoulder tussle, but raised her arms to appeal as US fans booed the ref for playing on.

Ironically Samantha Mewis was all over Danielle van der Donk like a cheap suit a minute later but that only yielded a freekick.

"Everyone expected a freekick but the ref played on," the TV commentator remarked amid crowd endorsement after Bloodworth's legal shoulder challenge on Morgan in the box, as the American fell face down and slapped her arms on the ground in tantrum fashion.

Is Morgan a diver and should fellow striker Tobin Heath have received the best supporting actor's award on the cup final stage?

If their performances in just the final alone are anything to go by then I suppose they are on the wrong stage.

Again, the Americans set the bar for the rest of the world to aspire to and deserve all the kudos.

What the beautiful game needs is to keep its house in order to weed out ugliness while championing the needs of the disadvantaged.

If France was the platform to map out the political agenda, then here's hoping the Olympic Games' stage next year will aspire to finding normalcy on the park once more.

United States co-skipper Alex Morgan lays on the ground to seek the attention of French referee Stephanie Frappart in the world cup final outside Lyon, France. Photo/AP
United States co-skipper Alex Morgan lays on the ground to seek the attention of French referee Stephanie Frappart in the world cup final outside Lyon, France. Photo/AP