In the pursuit for sporting success, an athlete can find themselves committing to any number
Okay. We thought about doing a Best XI. We thought about doing a recap of tournament highlights. But these things are so subjective, even when we can all agree that Sari van Veenendaal has magic hands or that The Rose Lavelle Era Is Here or that maaaaaybe Lucy Bronze should have gotten the Golden Ball.
So we've decided to completely double down on the subjectivity and present some extremely arbitrary post-tournament honors. Feel free to tweet us at @thevictorypress and add your own!
I Would Follow You to the Ends of the Earth Award: Marta, Megan Rapinoe (tie)
With large-scale women's sports tournaments inevitably comes exhausting discourse about "role models," because institutional sexism (and racism and homophobia and and transphobia where these all shall meet). But in this tournament, we were blessed with so many examples of women lifting up the next generation and speaking necessary truth to power.
It's shocking to think about how a team as iconic and stacked as Brazil only made it to the Round of 16, but here we are. And at the close of that Round of 16, Marta, with a coach's intensity and a blood-red lip, urged Brazil's next generation to take up the legacy she and Cristiane and Formiga had built, to "cry in the beginning so you can smile in the end." This was weeks ago and I have not stopped crying. May her words inspire future Canarinhas stars to not just take up the mantle of visibility and strength, but to pressure the Brazilian FA and FIFA and all the footballing powers that be to eliminate the structural barriers that stand in their way.
Megan Rapinoe won the Golden Boot, the Golden Ball and her second World Cup title, wearing the armband for the bulk of the tournament. Like Marta's motivational lesson, a now-indelible image of Rapinoe – purple hair, iconically queer, effortlessly cool, smiling and defiant and preparing to take a bow – will be considered one of the defining images of the 2019 Women's World Cup. Rapinoe's highly visible queerness and activism have always been intertwined. She was one of the first white athletes to take a knee in solidarity with Colin Kaepernick's protest against police brutality; she wore Audre Lorde's name on her back at the SheBelieves Cup; she's "not going to the fucking White House." You can already buy Rapinoe/Bird 2020 shirts on the Internet, and why not?
Runners up: Franny Ordega, Saki Kumagai, Sam Kerr, Formiga, Wendie Renard
Fulton Reed and Dean Portman Memorial Award for Badass Defensive Duo: Sara Gama and Elena Linari
Italy was a pleasant surprise in this tournament. Overshadowed in the narrative by groupmates Brazil and Australia, they came out the gate swinging and advanced to the quarterfinals. Anchoring this captivating Azzurre side were its tough, cohesive center back duo of Elena Linari and Sara Gama. They kept Brazil from scoring in the run of play, shocked Sam Kerr and Australia, and shut down the Steel Roses to advance and advance and advance.
In talking about the World Cup, we talk a lot about individual performances and full squad performances, but rarely that middle, where a defensive partnership between two players is so solid and productive and actually makes watching the defense fun.
Also, Sara Gama has her own Barbie now. WHEN WILL YOUR FAVE?
Best Glow-Up: The Netherlands National Team
The actor who plays Neville Longbottom in the Harry Potter movies. Tai in Clueless. Shangela between her first Drag Race appearance and All-Stars 3. The Netherlands Women's National Football Team.
The Netherlands professionalized women's soccer in 2007 with the establishment of the Eredivise Vrouwen, which itself has had a rocky development, including an awkward cohabitation with Belgium and a restart in 2015, which is also the year the Oranje qualified for the World Cup for the first time ever. Sustained KNVB investment in growing the women's game domestically has led to growth in popularity, development of incredible talent, a UEFA title in 2017, and now, a World Cup silver medal in just their second ever tournament appearance.
Soundtracked by a boisterous brass section particularly fond of the Village People, Sarina Wiegman's side won six of their seven matches, taking out contenders like Italy, Japan, and Sweden along the way. How could you not be entranced with Vivianne Miedema's on-the-ball wizardry, with Sherida Spitse's needle-in-the-hay precise set pieces, with Lineth Beerensteyn's high-impact late goals, or with Sari van Veenendaal's physics-defying saves? And there's more where this came from – Beerensteyn and Miedema are just 22 years old. Jackie Groenen and Dominique Bloodworth are 24. This is a team that has beyond arrived, and a team that is only going to get better.
They may not have left with the title, but the Oranje leave France with the respect and admiration of fans around the world and opportunities for growth that will make them an even greater threat in the years to come. We can't wait to see them in the Olympics in 2020.
Runners up: Spain, Scotland, Chicago Red Star Alyssa Naeher
Group Stage Team We Wish We Could Have Seen More of: Jamaica
The Reggae Girlz came into this World Cup with the odds and the narrative against them – an extreme lack of funding and support from the Jamaican FA (until the now-storied intervention of Cedella Marley), a Group of Death with Brazil and Australia.
It would be easy to write Jamaica off as "happy to be here" or "an inspiration just by getting to the tournament," but this team had some moments of true, exuberant brilliance. The scorelines don't show it, but Sydney Schneider was one of the best keepers at this tournament. And every thoughtful drift into space, every clever flick from Bunny Shaw was a look into a bright future of this side. Her assist for Havana Solaun's gorgeous wonderstrike, Jamaica's first World Cup goal, was a joy to behold.
Runners Up: Chile, Argentina, South Africa
Brandi Chastain Memorial Award for Best Victory Celebration Moment: This one.
This could have gone a million different ways and they would have all been valid. I could have talked about Julie Ertz air-guitaring with the trophy or executing a perfectly-struck dab in the locker room, about the whole squad belting out "Fight Night" by Migos with gusto, about Jessica MacDonald celebrating with her son, about Megan Rapinoe and Kristine Lilly embracing on the podium, about the quiet, revolutionary beauty of Kelley O'Hara running to celebrate by kissing her girlfriend in the stands (as previously stated, Kim McCauley has the definitive text on this).
But I'm going to give it to this brief video right here. While O'Hara, Ertz, Crystal Dunn and Emily Sonnett frolic in the confetti and sing, Sam Mewis sits in front of them, dazed, exhausted, holding back tears and smiling, overwhelmed and relieved. This moment doesn’t have the visual impact or iconicity of a shirtless, howling Brandi Chastain or a Kelley O'Hara victory kiss, but I love it. It's all the range of emotions of winning a championship in one shot, the external and internal celebration. We saw so much dancing and confetti and champagne, and rightfully so! But it was cool to see the quiet moments too, to watch in real time as the gravity of this win sunk in, especially for a player like Mewis, who didn’t have the headlines of a Rapinoe or a Morgan or a Lavelle but showed up and delivered every game. There's great fun in revisiting Ashlyn Harris' Instagram stories from the aftermath, but there's resonance too in just watching someone take it all in.
Runner Up: The people who interrupted the Fox News broadcast from the bar in Lyon with a "Fuck Trump!" chant. *flag emoji* *eagle emoji*
Second Runner Up: The USMNT completely losing the plot in the CONCACAF Gold Cup final to just even further drive the need for the WNT to be paid what they deserve. (Not that pay equity should be tied to tournament titles; it should just be the norm, but, you get it.)
Best Instagram Dog: Wilma Jean Lavelle
Rose Lavelle became a household name overnight with one flick of her left foot, and as people get to know the athlete Men in Blazers call "Skyline Chili Messi," so too will they get to know her adorable, wrinkly bulldog, Wilma Jean. Wilma Jean loves America and cuddling her stuffed giraffe, and commenting on Rose's Instagram, to which Rose writes back, because what we need is more wholesome USWNT content. Please note that, no matter what the Internet tells you, Wilma Jean does not have an official Twitter account.
Runners up: Zoe and Zeca, Marta and Toni Pressley's adorable chihuahuas.
Awards Without Commentary Lightning Round:
Best 'Bigger than the Game' Moment: Shanice van de Sanden consoling Saki Kumagai after the Round of 16 match
Best Hair Situation: Shanice van de Sanden's cheetah pattern
Best Inevitability: Wendie Renard scoring on a header
I'm Not Crying, You're Crying: That video of Jessica MacDonald reuniting with her son
Best Frivolous Sleuthing: Soccer Twitter attempting to determine what brand and shade of lipstick Marta wears
Best Live Commentary: The @UnusualEfforts crew; Leslie Jones
Worst Live Commentary: Cat Whitehill during the Germany-Nigeria match; Alexi Lalas literally all the time
Kristine Lilly Award for Outstanding Achievement in the Field of Unbreakability: Kosovare Asllani, Becky Sauerbrunn (tie)
Thank you for following us on this World Cup journey. We will resume NWSL coverage shortly, once we stop crying.
Filed under: 2019 women's world cup; soccer; kosovare asllani; becky sauerbrunn; marta; jessica macdonald; wendie renard; shanice van de sanden; saki kumagai; rose lavelle; wilma jean lavelle; megan rapinoe; sam mewis; team usa; team netherlands; team jamaica; sari van veenendaal; Vivianne Miedema; sherida spitse; lineth beerensteyn; dominique bloodworth; sarina wiegman; sara gama; elena linari; team spain; kelley o'hara
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