It was a blockbuster rematch of the 2018 final at this year’s Women’s International Champions Cup as hosts North Carolina Courage once again took on European Champions, Olympique Lyon Feminin.
In the inaugural year of the Women’s tournament, the American club was able to claim the title after beating the French club 1-0. But this year, Lyon were looking for revenge and found it by beating the hosts by the same margin, 0-1.
For the final, both Paul Riley and Jean-Luc Vasseur put together lineups with as much talent as they could on the pitch and this game, as a result, became an end-to-end thriller with all- around quality.
Right from the first whistle, both clubs were quickly looking to dominate possession and apply their own
Lyon were constantly using their set pieces to look for Captain and player of the tournament Wendie Renard as well as also trying to find 2018 Ballon D’Or winner Ada Hegerberg anywhere on the pitch.
While looking for their star players was the game plan for the French Club, a lot of the work within the midfield from Amandine Henry and Dzenifer Marozsan who helped settle the ball and were the commanding officers of the game.
The Courage in retrospect were using the space and speed on the wings from Kristen Hamilton and Crystal Dunn to bring the ball forward and find their teammates waiting in the centre of the box seemingly testing Lyon goalkeeper Sarah Bouhaddi every chance they could.
United States Women’s National Team midfielder Sam Mewis and Brazil Women’s National Team forward Debinha were also linking up well and one of their sequences resulted in a shot on target however Bouhaddi kept it out by her fingertips.
The Courage’s goalkeeper Stephanie Labbe (who was one of the few changes in Riley’s lineup) was making good saves against her opponents rerouting chances from Amel Majri and others.
Between the speed, the intelligence and the determination of both clubs this game was filled with so much skill and experience spectators could not ask for anything more.
At halftime, neither side had found a breakthrough goal and the score remained 0-0.
Going into the last 45 minutes, Lyon had 58 per cent possession and outshot the hosts 9 to six but the Courage were coming back strong while defending and physically testing their European opponents.
Both teams were playing the game by the position which created a lot of space on the pitch and allowed every player to optimize their skills and style of play.
Despite the fatigue, neither side was showing any signs of slowing down. For the Courage, Hamilton continued to make a big impact on the attacking threat and had two huge chances to put the hosts ahead yet both fell short.
Lyon’s first substitute Shanice van de Sanden (who came on for Nikita Parris) was able to use her speed to not just to be an attacking threat but to also help her team defensively.
It was surprising, however, that Hegerberg had not had a direct impact on the match but this could have been a tactical move from Vasseur.
With the Courage hovering over the star-player, a lot of the defensive focus revolved around making the forward she stayed quiet and this was done very well by the hosts.
But what this tactic also did was open up the pitch to other generously gifted Lyon players who could easily score when given the opportunity. This is the most successful team in the world.
As the clocked ticked away, every defender, midfielder and forward and the goalkeeper was putting in their best efforts to try and grab their team the opening goal.
One player in particular, Lucy Bronze, was virtually playing all of these positions for Lyon and it was no surprise her contributions were rewarded.
While bringing the ball up from the back, Bronze was able to tee up Marozsan who put her one-time shot past Labbe and gave Lyon the lead in the 57th minute.
With only 30 minutes left in the game, the hosts made more attacking changes hoping to find the tying goal and Jess MacDonald, McKenzie Meehan, McCall Zerboni and Heather O’Reilly took to the pitch.
As much as the Courage tried to continuously move forward, the Lyon defence of Alex Greenwood, Griedge Mbock, Renard and Bronze seemed unbreakable.
The game ultimately finished with the 0-1 scoreline and the German International expressed her gratitude.
"For us, it’s really important because last year we lost so we really wanted to win this game (and) I’m happy I could help with my goal,” said Marozsan
As the last match of what was a very successful tournament, this final represented more than just another trophy for club competition.
Between the dedication of the players and the response from fans around the world it showed what Women’s soccer can be, or really, what it already is: a sport full of energy, rivalry, sportsmanship and quality that is growing at an exponential rate.
Now, it’s time for the rest of the world to meet these high standards just like 2019 WICC final did.
Congratulations to the 2019 Women’s International Champions Cup winners, Olympique Lyonnais Feminin.