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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