LYON, France (Reuters) - United States coach Jill Ellis was always confident her team would break down a defensive Netherlands side in the women’s World Cup final on Sunday, despite the European champions holding off the usually quick-firing U.S. for an hour of play.
The Americans, who won their record-extending fourth world title with a 2-0 win, found themselves up against an orange wall that stopped them from scoring inside the first 12 minutes for the first time this tournament.
It wasn’t until a Megan Rapinoe penalty in the 61st minute that the deadlock was broken, followed shortly by a brilliant solo strike from Rose Lavelle.
“Overall, I thought we had the better of the game. The Netherlands made it incredibly hard for us. They got numbers behind the ball, looked to transition, incredibly strong team, good at defending the box - they presented a lot of challenges,” Ellis told a news conference.
“I said to the players at halftime at some point it’s going to break, whether that’s through a penalty kick, a set-piece or open play transition. I just felt that we would have our opportunity.”
Ellis added that she still had not seen the foul on Alex Morgan that led to the penalty, awarded after a video assistant referee review. However, she said she relied on her coaches opinions who said it was the right call.
The news conference was then interrupted by Ellis’s phone ringing, to which she said: “That’s probably my mother facetiming me - yep, it is!”
Having also led the U.S. to victory in Canada four years ago, Ellis becomes the first female coach in history to win back-to-back World Cups.
“Oh man, that’s pretty impressive! She’ll thank us later,” player of the match Rapinoe joked.
“Obviously the pedigree of the wins and championships speak for themselves. We have a super talented group of players and a very talented group of staff...
“I may be biased but I feel that from top to bottom, especially with the support staff we have and the technical staff - we’re world class. So credit to her for sure.”
Despite the achievements of Ellis and her team, who have not lost a competitive match in two years, the English-born coach was not hopeful of being invited to the White House to be honoured by the President.
“I haven’t been invited (and) I wouldn’t bet on that,” she said.
Reporting by Christian Radnedge; editing by Tony Lawrence