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Revenge was exacted in Vancouver on Sunday when the USWNT defeated Japan by a tremendous 5-2 scoreline to be crowned champions of the world for the third time in history, and the first time of the 21st century. Their victory in Canada means the US ladies have won more World Cups than any other side, pulling ahead of Germany who have won the tournament twice.
Japan weren’t pushovers, however, and looked for portions of the game like they might manage a fightback to make the game interesting, but in the end the US side was simply too strong for them.
Jill Ellis’ USA outfit lined up with the same starters who beat Germany in the semifinal, similarly to Japan whose starting eleven was also unchanged from their semifinal side.
The USWNT would burst straight out of the gates following kickoff, and shocked the world by finding the back of the net after just 3 minutes when an completely unmarked Carli Lloyd, the US’ hero in the knockout stage of this World Cup, managed to find the back of the net with a bursting run to meet a corner kick and send the US supporting world into ecstasy.
That goal would be the first of a barrage, and it would again be Carli Lloyd who scored. Some defending and goalkeeping that one would not expect to come from the reigning world champions allowed Lloyd to muscle her way into the six yard box and roll the ball home to give the USA a 2-0 lead after just 5 minutes.
Japan would be graced with a nine minute period of reprieve before the USWNT scored their third, when Lauren Holiday connected with a sublime volley on the edge of the box which rocketed past Japanese goalkeeper Ayumi Kaihori. After 15 minutes, the US led by 3 goal to zero, and there seemed to be no way back for the reigning world champions.
Carli Lloyd completed her hat-trick in world class fashion in the 16th minute, lofting the ball over a distraught Kaihori from the half way line in a tremendous showing of skill. This goal also tied Germany’s Célia Šašić for the fastest hat-trick at a world cup, but the fact that Lloyd’s was scored in a World Cup final makes it an even more impressive statistic.
Yuki Ogimi would ensure that it wasn’t all bad for Japan in the 27th minute, when she found herself unmarked around the 6-yard box, and managed to curl the ball past US goalkeeper Hope Solo. The score, however, remained heavily in the US’ favor at 4-1.
Japan came forward again just three minutes with a new air of confidence (well, as confident as a team losing 4-1 can be), in a move that was capped off by a dangerous shot from Japanese captain Aya Miyama being saved by Hope Solo.
Legend of women’s soccer and Japan’s beacon of leadership Homare Sawa, who scored against the US in the 2011 final, was substituted into the game in the 32nd minute, indicating that Japan didn’t believe the game was over, and that they intended to put up a fight.
When halftime came the score sat at 4-1, with the advantage going the USWNT’s way, but the Japanese had showed late in the half that they potentially had a few goals in them. Their defense, however, remained a calamitous display.
The high note that Japan ended the first half on would carry over after halftime, and was capped off in the 52nd minute when USWNT defender Julie Johnston put a header past her own goalkeeper. The own goal brought Japan within two goals of the US for the first time since the 15th minute, but it wouldn’t last long.
Following conceding, the US ladies came forward and immediately extended their lead to 3 goals once again when Tobin Heath managed to poke a shot into Japan’s net following a goal-mouth scramble. In the 55th minute the scoreboard showed a 5-2 lead for the US, a truly unprecedented final with over 30 minutes still left to play.
From that point both sides would go on to exchange attacking plays, with neither team really grabbing the game by the scruff of the neck, probably due to the fact that the USWNT were in position to go on and win the World Cup comfortably while Japan were too far behind to be intensely motivated.
Full time came with a whimper rather than a roar, with neither side committing too many bodies to attacks, but the whistle sent the USWNT and their fans into a jubilant frenzy.
This victory means the US have finally silenced the demons that saw them fail to win a world cup since 1999 against China, and ushers in a new era of women’s soccer; where the USA have the potential to be an entirely dominant force.