VANCOUVER, British Columbia — The U.S. went into the history books on Sunday in the most astonishing of ways, obliterating Japan with four goals in the first 16 minutes—three of them from Carli Lloyd, who even scored from the halfway line—and going on to win the 2015 Women’s World Cup with a 5-2 victory.
It was the U.S.’s third Women’s World Cup title, the most of any country, but just the first World Cup crown the U.S. has won since 1999. Lloyd scored on set pieces in the third and fifth minutes, and after Lauren Holiday struck in the 14th minute, Lloyd grabbed her hat trick two minutes later with one of the most remarkable goals ever scored in a World Cup.
Winning the ball and looking up near midfield, Lloyd saw Japanese goalkeeper Ayumi Kaihori off her line and launched the most audacious of shots, an angry parabola that kept going and going and going … until Kaihori could do nothing but lay a desperate finger on the ball before it bulged the net. It instantly became an all-time highlight for U.S. soccer.
Here are my three quick thoughts on the game:
Hello, Carli Lloyd, meet history
There are times in a lucky few athletes’ lives when every little thing comes together at just the right moment, and it produces something magical and ineffable and, yes, even immortal.
Carli Lloyd lived that moment here at BC Place on Sunday with a hat trick in the first 16 minutes of a World Cup final. The first two goals came as the result of set-piece desire and proficiency, as Lloyd shed the mark of a hapless Azusa Iwashimizu and hammered home balls from Megan Rapinoe and Lauren Holiday, respectively. And the third, the halfway-line goal, will be seen on highlight shows as long as U.S. Soccer exists.
Lloyd has always looked to take shots from distance, but not from this distance! On July 5, 2015, a player met an occasion and produced something for the ages.
The U.S. was better prepared than Japan
It’s a rare occasion when two teams meet in a World Cup final and one team comes out so much more prepared than the other.
U.S. coach Jill Ellis deserves a lot of credit for shifting to a 4-2-3-1 starting in the semifinals, removing Abby Wambach from the starting lineup and inserting Morgan Brian to unlock Lloyd’s potential in the attack. The U.S.’s scoring set-pieces were a thing of beauty, and Japan looked totally unprepared to deal with them. That’s on coach Norio Sasaki, who admitted his selection mistakes by making two non-injury subs in the first half, something you almost never see at this level.
Still, Japan didn’t give up the way the Brazilian men did in their 7-1 loss to Germany in last year’s men’s World Cup, and they showed their pride by pulling back two goals to keep things interesting.
Let’s call them the ‘15ers
The historic U.S. team that won the 1999 World Cup has rightly earned its place in American sports lore as the ‘99ers, and they will always be considered a national treasure. But this 2015 team now deserves its own place in the U.S. sporting pantheon right up alongside all those greats from 16 years ago. So go ahead and give them their due.
These ‘15ers traveled an epic journey together, one that included bitter hardships from World Cups past, and fought their way through a less-than-perfect start in this World Cup to peak at just the right time when it mattered most. The U.S.’s collective defense was a constant in this tournament, and the attacking power revealed itself in the most ruthless of ways in the World Cup final. Bring on the hosannas. These ‘15ers have well and truly arrived at the promised land.