CHRISTIAN RADNEDGE in VANCOUVER: Carli Lloyd became the first woman ever to score a hat-trick in a World Cup final as the USA romped to a 5-2 win over Japan to win the trophy for the first time in 16 years.
Lloyd’s goals, including a 40m lob, came inside the first explosive 15 minutes of the showpiece at Vancouver’s BC Place along with a Lauren Holiday volley. Tobin Heath scored in the second half to make it five.
Japan steadied themselves enough to respond through Yuki Ogimi in the 27th minute, but the damage had already been done despite an own goal from Julie Johnston.
It was sweet revenge for the USA who lost to Japan in the 2011 final on penalties. Roared on by a 53,341-strong crowd, mostly made up of Americans who had made the short trip across the border, Jill Elllis’s side came out of the starting blocks with tremendous ferocity.
They took the lead in the first three minutes, a Megan Rapinoe corner was met by the boot of Lloyd to make BC Place erupt with joy.
Barely two minutes later and it was 2-0 – a free-kick from the same right hand side as the first goal’s corner was flicked into the box where Japan failed to clear and Lloyd poked in her and USA’s second.
Norio Sasaki’s players were shell-shocked, so much so that in attempting to head the ball away Azusa Iwashimizu sent it straight up in the air over her own box. When it came back down, Lauren Holiday was there to volley it straight past Ayumi Kaihori.
Lloyd secured her hat-trick on the quarter-hour mark. Confidently striding forward with the ball from the halfway line, she sent a lob over the head of Kaihori who slipped over and was helpless as the ball sailed in.
That goal was her sixth of the tournament, making her the joint-top scorer along with Germany’s Celia Sasic. It was also the only other hat-trick in a senior FIFA World Cup final along with Geoff Hurst’s for England in 1966.
Fears that the game as a contest was over were tempered somewhat by Japan responding through Yuki Ogimi, who turned smartly inside the area and lashed the ball past Hope Solo.
Sasaki then brought on veteran striker Homare Sawa and moved to a more attacking formation to try and get his side back into the game and defend their status as champions.
Early in the second half, a comeback did not look entirely unlikely as a Japan benefited from an own goal by Julie Johnston who headed past Solo following a Japan free-kick.
But the whiff of a recovery was snuffed out just moments later as the USA went up the other end – the ball spending little time in the middle of the field – and Morgan Brian cut the ball back to Tobin Heath who scored her first goal of the tournament.
There was even time to bring on US legend Abby Wambach for her last ever FIFA World Cup match. Her career includes 183 goals for her country, a FIFA player of the year award and two gold medals at the Olympics. But here she finally achieved the elusive title of world champion.
Ellis also brought on veteran defender Christie Rampone who was part of the successful 1999 squad.
As the final whistle blew the USA team congregated in wild celebrations. They officially become the most successful women’s team in the World Cup with three triumphs, and they also now hold the distinction of the highest scoring team in World Cup history with 112 goals.