- Jill Ellis is on the shortlist for The Best FIFA Women’s Coach
- She led the USA’s successful World Cup title defence
- We unpack her winning approach in the France 2019 final
The Best FIFA Women’s Coach nominee Jill Ellis had a stellar 2018/19, crowned by lifting the FIFA Women’s World Cup™ in France. We take a closer look at the defining match of her year: USA 2-0 Netherlands, the France 2019 final in which Ellis primed her squad for success against an Oranjeleeuwinnen side boasting some of the competition’s most fearsome attackers.
The tactical set-up
Jill Ellis deployed a 4-3-3 formation for most of the USA’s World Cup run, and the final was no different, nor were her defensive selections: Alyssa Naeher between the posts while Kelley O’Hara, Abby Dahlkemper, Becky Sauerbrunn and Crystal Dunn lined up right-to-left in defence.
The midfield trio of Julie Ertz, Sam Mewis and Rose Lavelle commanded the match. Ertz’s ability to shield the USA backline while shuttling the ball ahead to Mewis and Lavelle allowed the USA to dictate the pace. Lavelle was dynamic in attack, her creativity and engine helping her suck in or simply blow by many Dutch defenders.
Up top, adidas Golden Ball and Golden Boot winner Megan Rapinoe stretched the field from the left wing, mirrored by Tobin Heath on the opposite flank. This cleared space for Lavelle to burst through the middle, while Alex Morgan was the sharp edge at the top of the formation.
Ellis’ overlapping full-backs, do-it-all midfield and game-breaking forward line never allowed the Netherlands to get comfortable in possession. While adidas Golden Glove winner Sari van Veenendaal was impenetrable in the first half, eventually Morgan earned a penalty that Rapinoe converted in the 61st minute to give the Stars and Stripes the opening goal.
Eight minutes later Mewis connected with Lavelle, who was left in acres of space thanks to the danger created by the USA’s wide players. Lavelle glided toward the top of the penalty area, where she turned Stefanie van der Gragt and ripped a shot into the bottom-right corner of the net, past a diving Van Veenendaal.
Lavelle’s ceaseless pressure pushed Netherlands midfielders Jackie Groenen and Sherida Spitse onto their heels, dislocating them from attack-minded midfield partner Danielle van de Donk and goal-scorers Vivianne Miedema and Lieke Martens. The ever-present threat of the USA in transition made the Oranjeleeuwinnen wary even in their comeback bid, leading to a comprehensive 2-0 win for Ellis and Co.
“The level overall of the women’s game is growing exponentially. This was incredibly difficult. The teams we had to come through were some of the best in the world. In terms of the path and the level, this was pretty challenging.
“I knew after 2016 we had to deconstruct and reconstruct the team. That was hard. But to get to this point and see the validation in all our work, it speaks for itself. People out there know about one-tenth of what we do. Congratulations to the Netherlands. They’re a world class team and they gave us a heck of a game tonight.”
-USA head coach Jill Ellis