Women's World Cup: USA make headlines on and off pitch, plus other talking points

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The United States retained the Women’s World Cup following Sunday’s 2-0 victory over the Netherlands.

England finished fourth in France under the guidance of Phil Neville, while Scotland’s campaign ended at the group stage.

Here, PA highlights some of the tournament’s main talking points.

Champions make headlines on and off the field

The world’s top ranked team justified their pre-tournament tag as favourites by lifting the trophy for the fourth time. Inspired to glory by the goals of Alex Morgan and Golden Ball winner Megan Rapinoe, the USA also made headlines for other reasons. Rapinoe received widespread support for her criticism of US President Donald Trump, a visit to England’s hotel ahead of the semi-final clash sparked debate, while Morgan’s tea-drinking celebration against the Lionesses caused minor controversy. Jill Ellis’ champions, who earlier this year began legal action against the US soccer Federation over equal pay and working conditions, also attracted accusations of arrogance after Ali Krieger’s comments about the team’s superior strength in depth.

Controversy never too VAR away

Video Assistant Referee (VAR) technology was used in the competition for the first time. The system played a prominent role, including the award of the penalty which broke the deadlock in Sunday’s final. While VAR succeeded in helping to eradicate officiating mistakes, the time taken to review incidents proved unpopular, while some decisions were deemed extremely harsh and not considered to be rectifying clear and obvious refereeing errors. Pre-tournament changes to the handball and penalty rules also contributed to regular interventions from VAR. Three spot-kicks were retaken in the group stage due to the movement of goalkeepers, one of which eliminated Scotland after Lee Alexander edged off her line to deny Florencia Bonsegundo’s first attempt, with Bonsegundo then slotting home the retaken penalty to earn Argentina a 3-3 draw.

Home nation heartbreak

England were knocked out at the semi-final stage for the second successive tournament. While the Lionesses’ campaign had plenty of positives, including six goals for striker Ellen White and the Silver Ball award for right-back Lucy Bronze, head coach Neville admitted that the eventual fourth-place finish felt like failure. England could have few complaints about coming out second best against the USA, although captain Steph Houghton’s tame missed penalty was a major opportunity to force extra-time. Scotland also fell short of expectations. Manager Shelley Kerr was targeting the round of 16, but her side’s hopes were ended after they threw away a 3-0 lead against Argentina, cruelly conceding the equaliser from Bonsegundo’s twice-taken spot-kick deep in stoppage time.

Millions tuning in on TV

Interest in the women’s game has grown massively based on the extraordinary television viewing figures. The Lionesses attracted armchair fans in their millions and UK viewing records for women’s football were broken several times during the tournament. The agonising semi-final defeat to the USA on July 2 was the biggest TV audience of the year so far. A peak audience of 11.7million tuned in to watch the last-four clash in Lyon, which was screened live on BBC One, according to information released by the corporation. The figures also revealed that the peak share of the TV audience during the match was 50.8 per cent.

Social media support

In addition to large TV audiences, significant social media engagement, including among high-profile names, proved the popularity of the tournament. President Trump, former president Barack Obama, and 2016 presidential candidate Hillary Clinton were among those to congratulate the US team on their success. Basketball star LeBron James, meanwhile, mimicked Morgan’s tea-drinking celebration in a video shared on Instagram, having previously posted pictures of Golden Boot winner Rapinoe. The Lionesses also received significant social media support. Prime Minister Theresa May, former England strikers Michael Owen and Gary Lineker, tennis player Johanna Konta, and musician Billy Bragg were just a handful of the famous faces to praise Neville’s team following elimination.

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Brazil manager Tite 'has no words' to express happiness at Copa America win

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Brazil boss Tite was at a loss to describe his elation after triumphing over Peru in the Copa America final.

The manager cut a visibly distressed figure during the match, particularly after striker Gabriel Jesus was shown a second yellow card and left the match.

But despite losing such an important player, the 10-man Selecao lifted the Copa America for the ninth time and their first under Tite.

Tite, who was criticised after Brazil were bundled out of the quarter-finals at the last World Cup, told a post-match press conference: “I became the Selecao coach today.

“I have no words to describe this happiness.

“We get so caught up in work that we’re just going to be happy tomorrow when we get home and can watch the best moments.”

Jesus had a similarly extreme night of highs and lows.

The Manchester City player set up Everton Soares’ goal on 15 minutes before snagging Brazil’s second goal in the 45th, just a minute after Peru’s Paolo Guerrero equalised with a penalty.

But in the 70th he received a second yellow card and was visibly upset as he left the pitch, punching the VAR booth and kicking a water bottle.

Moments later he was picked up on cameras as he sat weeping on the steps inside the tunnel.

Quoted on the Brazil website, the 22-year-old later said: “I’m happy to be part of this group. We won this championship… now it’s time to celebrate.”

Fellow forward Richarlison would not let illness stop him, with the Everton player taking to the field in the second half and scoring his side’s third and final goal.

The 22-year-old had been isolated from the squad due to being infected with the mumps.

“But I had faith and courage … my thinking was I would get on the field and play,” he said.

“I put it in my head that it would heal quickly. Every morning when I woke, I went straight to the mirror to see if the lump had diminished.”

Richarlison said he had dedicated his goal in the 90th minute to his great-grandfather, adding on cbf.com.br: “It was a moment that will remain forever in my memory.”

The win was built from a solid platform of team cohesiveness, midfielder Casemiro said after the match.

“Winning a title with the Selecao is any child’s dream.

“This is an important title, I’m very happy, it will undoubtedly become a very special memory for me.

“The key to all this was to have a solid team,” the 27-year-old added.

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Copa America 2019: Brazil v Peru player ratings as Gabriel Jesus and Marquinhos shine

Andy West 8/07/2019
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Gabriel Jesus

Gabriel Jesus excelled with a goal and an assist – before later being sent off – as Brazil were crowned Copa America champions with a 3-1 victory over Peru.

It was an eventful game at the Maracana, and here we run the rule over every player.

BRAZIL

Alisson 6. Went the wrong way for Guerrero’s penalty and just had one routine save to make in the second half.

Alves 6. A relatively restrained performance by the skipper’s usual high-octane standards, but he was focused and committed.

Marquinhos 8. Very calm and composed in the heart of defence, doing everything necessary to keep Peru at bay.

Silva 6. Handled to concede a penalty for Peru’s equaliser, but made amends with a key challenge to deny a clear chance.

Sandro 7. Picked his moments to attack and nearly created a goal for Firmino, and concentrated well on defensive matters.

Casemiro 6. Kept things simple in front of the back four, defending with discipline and taking no risks with possession.

Arthur 7. Gave his team width by regularly switching play with intelligence and did superbly to set up Jesus’s goal.

Jesus 8. Created the opening goal with some brilliant skill and tucked away the second with a fine finish, before being harshly sent off.

Coutinho 6. Stabbed a first half snapshot just wide and again came close with a powerful drive just after the break.

Everton 8. Took the opener really well on the half-volley, and made some scintillating bursts including one to win a late penalty.

Firmino 6. Was off target with a couple of decent chances but regained possession to spark the second goal. Worked tirelessly.

SUBSTITUTES

Richarlison 6. Introduced by Tite as a reaction to Jesus’s red card, and wrapped up the victory with a late penalty.

Militao 6. A defensive-minded change as Brazil protected their lead in the latter stages, he did a sensible job.

Allan. Last gasp sub, he didn’t get a kick but was able to celebrate being on the pitch when Brazil became champions.

PERU

Gallese 6. Couldn’t repeat his semi-final heroics, unable to do anything to keep out any of Brazil’s three goals.

Advincula 5. Totally out of position for the opening goal and was given a really tough time by the trickery and pace of Everton.

Zambrano 5. Couldn’t quite get to Jesus in time to deny the second goal, and brought down Everton to concede a late penalty.

Abram 6. Worked hard in defence and showed good positional awareness but struggled for pace at times.

Truaco 7. Showed some deft touches on the ball, and nearly grabbed a second equaliser with a low angled shot.

Yotun 5. Carelessly gave the ball away in the buildup to Brazil’s second goal, and was the first man replaced.

Tapia 6. Tried his luck from distance early on and played his part in keeping Peru competitive until near the end.

Carillo 5. Buzzed from flank to flank trying to create danger, but faded badly from the game in the second half.

Cueva 7. Blasted a second minute free kick just wide, won the penalty for Peru’s leveller and always wanted possession.

Flores 6. Involved in the buildup to the penalty and came within inches of making it 2-2 with a thunderous long-range shot.

Guerrero 6. Sharp in his link play during Peru’s fast start and calmly brought his team level from the spot.

SUBSTITUTES

Ruidiaz 5. Came on for the last 15 minutes but Brazil were well in control by that stage.

Goncales 5. Another late change by Peru coach Gareca, but he was unable to get into the game as Brazil eased home.

Polo 5. The last Peruvian substitute, he was only given five minutes to make a difference and that proved insufficient.

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