So here we are. The end.
After 23 games, 21 teams and 7 cities we’ve finally made it; the Women’s World Cup Final, 2019. USA v Netherlands.
Adrenalin; it consumes you.
This is what your 4 weeks of hard work comes down to – one game, one trophy. There’s pressure (you want to knock this one out of the park, more so than any of the others), but there’s excitement too – it flows from the crowd and the players and you’re left with permanent stomach butterflies. Or maybe that’s just pre-final nausea. Who knows.
USA were the easy favourites, but as suckers for an underdog and two Brits with Tuesday’s defeat still on our minds, we were routing for the Oranje Leeuwinnen.
They put up a brilliant fight, their defence baffling USA for the whole of the first half and goalkeeper Sari proving (several times) why she deserved the tournament’s Golden Glove. But a VAR (BOOOO!) awarded penalty during the second half changed the game entirely. It was taken by big hitter Megan Rapinoe and followed up with the celebration that has incensed everyone’s favourite morning presenter Piers Morgan.
The penalty was shortly followed by a goal from Rose Lavelle and with it the Netherlands’ hopes of the trophy seemed to evaporate. USA had sunk yet another team and earned themselves their 4th World Cup title.
Think what you like about USA, but there’s no denying their prowess.
Trophy presentations are the stuff of nightmares. You’re crammed in to a pen, jostling with every other pitch side photographer for the best position. You will probably get an elbow to the face and a 400mm to the back of your head. It’s not for the faint hearted.
Then there’s the steady-cam.
You know when you’re trying to get that perfect holiday shot (the one that will be perfect for the ‘gram) and you line everything up just right – you look banging, the angle’s right, everyone is finally looking at the camera…and then someone walks across your shot and just sort of stands there, a bit oblivious. Yeah. That’s the steady-cam man.
Yet despite all the moaning we were both pleased with the end result; plenty of celebrations, plenty of dejection and a shiny trophy at the centre of it all.
We end our month long journey on a high.
Now we part ways for the final time, Molly heading off for a well deserved holiday in California and Charlotte back in her natural Offside office habitat. It’s been hectic and exhausting, but overall it’s been an absolute blast.
Huge shoutout to Canon for lending us some much appreciated equipment and thanks to you guys for following our journey. ❤️
(Stay tuned for some outtakes you didn’t know you needed.)
This game was just one of those games. It seemed to go on… and on… and on. After a thrilling semi-final between England and the USA the night before, our expectations for the second semi-final between the Netherlands and Sweden were still high.
With both teams having the hunger to win throughout the rest of the competition we were expecting a feisty non stop match. Oh how we got this wrong…
From kick off neither team really looked like they wanted to be in that final facing the USA on Sunday. The goalless ninety minutes did nothing for photos.
With very little action and a limited amount of shots on target, we could only hope for a goal in extra time. We didn’t have to wait long as 9 minutes into extra time, Jackie Groenen of the Netherlands fired one into the back of the net from outside the box. We were glad to see a goal however we were both sat at the wrong end so can’t say we were overly chuffed.
A Netherlands v USA final was everything we had hoped for after the England loss. The fans will arrive on Sunday in force, as they have throughout the whole competition and it should create a brilliant atmosphere.
What could have been…
Italy v Netherlands was our final match in Northern France. It was also one of our hottest.
Temperatures were breaking records across Europe and we were in the middle of it all, sweating out half our body weight even though we were both in the shade. Who needs a gym when you have the sun, right?
Play was stopped once each half for a cooling break with players dousing themselves with water and damp towels to stave off the heat. (We got our own cooling breaks in the form of the stadium volunteers who delivered water at regular intervals – absolute gems!) We were half-dead just sitting still. How they can play in those temperatures is some super hero wizardry.
The heat took its toll however and tempers were a little fraught with arguments bubbling up here and there. Referee Claudia Umpiérrez wasn’t taking any nonsense and had a firm hand on the game and we all know what that means…NO VAR…AGAIN! 😄
It was a close first half, but let’s be frank; no one wants extra time and penalties, especially not in that heat so, thankfully, the Dutch stepped it up and sunk Italy with two goals late in the second half.
We’ll be sad to see Italy go. They surprised a lot of people during this World Cup, us included. Plus they’re national anthem is the best.
Even on paper this was due to be one of the biggest and best games of the tournament and it certainly didn’t disappoint.
The first goal came from co-captain Megan Rapinoe; a brilliant free-kick that sailed past a cluster of her team-mates and French defenders to find the back of the net. She also scored the second 60 minutes later to give the leading world champions a comfortable lead.
This all came after a row with everyone’s favourite Cheeto, President Trump. Apparently he didn’t like the fact she had said she wasn’t going to the White House (we’ve taken out the expletives for the kids) if USA win the World Cup. Go figure.
France bit back late in the second half with a goal from Wendie Renard but it wasn’t enough to keep the hosts in the game and at the final whistle they came crashing out of the tournament.
You an’t say they didn’t put up a decent fight though. They kept the American defence busy for most of the 90 minutes and fended off several counter-attacks, but the USA aren’t reigning champions for nothing.
Understandably, the French were distraught and in front of a home crowd it made it even harder for them to handle.
Trying to compare the men and women’s game is impossible; there are too many differences. They’re each brilliant in their own way, but this was just a great 90 minutes of football. Simple as.
We swore we wouldn’t go to Le Havre again, not after the Drive That Shall Not Be Named, but when your country’s team are playing there in the World Cup Quarter-Finals you have to suck it up, buttercup.
With the help of Waze we found a far more peaceful route; away from the A86 and the Parisians, through French countryside and cute towns. The scenery helped keep the PTSD at bay and, in the end, the three and a half hour drive was a breeze.
Speaking of breezes, there was a great one in Le Havre. Finally we saw the low twenties again. Bliss!
We arrived early so we could get some beach time in – we’ve been here for nearly three weeks now and as you can see we’ve really got our priorities in order. We ate fish and chips beside La Mer, washed it down with some ice cream and sunned ourselves on the Le Havre pebbles where we both managed to burn our armpits.
Charlotte also managed to skim a stone for the first time though no one else saw so did it really happen? We’ll never know.
Norway v England started slowly. Very slowly. We were dreading another 45 minutes, but England came back out with a bang. They ran rings around Norway and an amazing strike from Lucy Bronze sent the crowd into a frenzy. Steph Houghton (who was a questionable starter due to an ankle injury from the Cameroon game) was brilliant in defence and kept a clean sheet for England when she cleared a Norwegian shot off the line.
These were the Lionesses that could go on to convincingly challenge France or USA. More of them please!
Also there was no VAR. We repeat, NO VAR! It was a good day.
Oh and Beckham was there. With Harper. Being ridiculously adorable. Extra good day.
We never want to leave Château du Heathville.
It’s like waking up in Pride and Prejudice. Birdsong, rolling countryside and a stately country house in the distance. Oh and donkeys in the back garden. And deer. And ponies.
Basically, it’s a haven. And we needed it.
It was a rest day that was good for the soul; one filled with snoozes, a casual walk around the actual château (Château de Rambouillet), ice cream, galettes and good company.
Here’s some wholesome content for you to enjoy:
Time for another new stadium – our last change of scenery before the home stretch in Lyon.
Netherlands v Japan took place at Roazhon Park in Rennes. This would have been a 10 hour round trip for us so we decided to break it up with a stop at Château du Heathville a.k.a Cath’s and Rich’s. (Told you they’d be making another appearance.)
Rich was outnumbered in the car 3 girls to 1 boy and his brave attempt to talk about cars was instantly shut down. He didn’t try again. We felt a bit bad so out of the kindness of our hearts we let him play his music for the rest of the journey.
Our go on the way back though!
We had a spot of lunch in town, ordering burgers, chicken and puddings using our very best French (Spoiler: it was terrible, but God loves a trier.) Full and happy we trudged off to the stadium where we promptly stuffed our face with free Smarties and Lion Bars (free food is rare here, you have to make the most of it!)
Netherlands got on the scoresheet early with a cheeky little back heel from Lieke Martens, but Japan fought back with a equaliser before half-time and completely dominated the game from there on out.
VAR was back in full swing, crushing Japan’s chances by rewarding the Dutch a penalty for a harsh handball because apparently a natural position for your arms is trussed behind your back. (Insert eye-roll here.) It was absolute heartbreak for Japan who we reckon could have stolen the win had the game gone into extra-time.
We don’t think we’ve had a game without VAR yet and, frankly, we’re sick of it. We’re cashing in our cliché phrase; the game’s gone.
A long, three hour drive back to Cath and Rich’s followed the match, no doubt made longer for Rich by our brilliant and definitely-in-tune renditions of Pop Throwbacks. And Charlotte was determined to keep up conversation even when she fell asleep much to the amusement of everyone else.
We are the best passengers ever.
Fun Fact: These are the women’s toilets in Rennes. We have many questions. And a full bladder.
It’s difficult to remember anything from this day other than it was hot.
It was one of those days that makes you want to sit in a paddling pool, ice cream in hand, doing absolutely nothing until the temperature drops and you can actually move a few inches without sweating buckets.
Instead, we had to sit pitch side, laden with cameras and behind advertising boards so hot that they generate their own heat haze.
We’ve been permanently clammy for the last week now.
Spain looked the favourites for most of the match, doing a brilliant job of worrying USA until a second penalty gave the Americans the lead and our dreams of a dramatic shock result were obliterated along with Spain’s chances at the trophy.
It was also one of those games that was better to watch than photograph. These are the most infuriating. You can feel the excitement from the crowd and see the skill in the players, but it just doesn’t translate into a photo. You’re left with very little at the final whistle; few frames and a heap of frustration.
Still, the day was not without its delights. Molly’s dad and brother had popped over for a visit. (Apparently the purpose was to see Molly, but we all know it was actually to deliver another bag of M&S supplies from Sue. Priorities. She even packed jam tarts. Hero.)
Their company was a silver lining and a welcome addition to the car. Not that we’re sick of each other’s company…which we’ve been enjoying…for just over two weeks…non-stop…
Friends forever. ❤️