Nothing is sweeter than a timely revenge. Japan won a thriller at Frankfurt in a shoot-out; the U.S. eves then beat them 5-2 in regulation time at Vancouver four years later on Sunday to win the FIFA World Cup for a record third time. The first American victory in 16 years.
The tournament started on June 6 in the shadow of the multimillion FIFA scandal, but became a global show-piece riding on exquisite skill, thorough professionalism and spirit displayed by the superstars of women’s soccer to disseminate the message of women empowerment. This World Cup also witnessed record-smashing television ratings and attendance figures.
Analysts predicting a cracker of a match were wronged by U.S. skipper Carli Lloyd and her highly motivated girls. The script of the finals was written within the first 14 minutes as Lloyd notched up a sensational hat trick to tear apart the Nadeshikos, and U.S. eves led 4-0. Comeback from such a situation was virtually impossible for the reigning champions. And apart from a few jitters, Japan failed miserably in defense of their title, as their back-four shivered and shattered in the match.
“I don’t have a rear view mirror in my life,” USA coach Jill Ellis said going into the finals. The Americans insisted they have shrugged off the memories of the finals four years ago. But their roster featured 14 players who were a part of last edition’s team.
Lloyd scored a brace in the opening 10 minutes, pouncing on opportunities which came from set pieces on both occasions and sloppy defense of the Japan eves to buoy her side. The early goals rattled Japan as they succumbed to more pressure in the next five minutes. Lauren Holiday made the most of a poor clearance of an opponent stopper, and smacked at the net with a right-footed volley.
Lloyd gifted the best moment of the game with a mercurial effort from the center-circle, observing the Japan custodian Ayumi Kaihori way ahead of her line. The American skipper unleashed a swerving long-ranger which ricocheted off the post before going in. Vintage Lloyd got a well-deserved hat trick in the 14th minute to snatch the title from its defenders. The American skipper’s scoring spree saw her in the scoring sheet of every game of the knock-out phase.
“My fiance was coming, until that I made sure he wasn’t. It’s just so demanding mentally – I feel more mentally zapped right now than physically,” Lloyd said after the match. “I want him here now to celebrate, but I just had to focus.”
Lloyd also scored in the 2-1 win in finals of London Olympics against Japan.
“She always does this to us,” Japan coach, Norio Sasaki said. “In London, she scored twice. Today, she scored three times. So, we’re embarrassed, but she’s an excellent player.”
Dismantled by the early onslaught, Japan tried to regroup, making 2 substitutions, bringing in ace midfielder Homare Sawa – playing her 6th World Cup at 36 and replacing a stopper back to restore pride and stop the deluge to go for a counter punch. The Nadeshiko pulled one back in the 27th minute. Japan was rewarded by a goal by Julie Johnston, the defensive leader of the U.S. side in the second half. In the next minute, only the U.S. extended their lead as Heath scored from an in-swinging corner. Japan pushed forward but couldn’t reduce the margin.
The second-ranked U.S. eves hoisted the glittering trophy in front of a capacity crowd of over 50,000 at BC Place, Vancouver.