Women's World Cup: Lloyd hat-trick seals US triumph
USA beat Japan 5-2 in the climax to the most watched Women's World Cup ever
USA 5 Japan 2. The USA became the first side to win the Women's World Cup three times following a scintillating performance against tournament holders Japan in Vancouver that featured one of the great World Cup goals.
The US started the match with a blitz of goals that was reminiscent of Germany's 7-1 mauling of Brazil in the men's tournament last year, and left Japan stunned. With the US 4-0 up after just 16 minutes they didn't quite manage to reach the Germans' giddy heights, but they had done enough damage and eventually ran out 5-2 winners.
The Japanese team were once again left ruing the talents of American striker Carli Lloyd, the architect of their downfall with a 16 minute hat-trick to add to the two goals she scored against them in the 2012 Olympic Games Final in London.
Lloyd's performance will surely go down as one of the greatest World Cup Final appearances and her third goal will take its place in football folklore as she lobbed Ayumi Kaihori from the halfway line in the 15th minute.
Had it not been for Lloyd's first-half flurry it may have been a different story for the US. Japan hassled and harried their opponents, playing the better of the football for much of the first half – but the US could well afford the Japanese that luxury and led 4-1 at half-time.
In the second half a Julie Johnston own goal gave Japan brief hope, but it was snuffed out just two minutes later when Tobin Heath made it 5-2.
US Captain Abby Wambach hailed Lloyd's star turn after the match, reports The Guardian, saying: "I've seen it first-hand how hard she works. She won us this World Cup."
Sunday's final had followed on from Saturday's third place play-off, where a rejuvenated England side managed to defeat Germany for the first time in their history. After the match, England coach, Mark Sampson allowed himself a little moment of pride, telling the BBC: "We hope that in 50 to 60 years this team is still spoken about for some of the special moments they have brought to the world over the course of this tournament."
The final brought to an end a tournament that has captured the imagination of a worldwide audience, and Fifa claimed the stadium attendance for the tournament in Canada has been a record 1,278,682.
Despite the successes, The Guardian notes the disparity that remains between the female game and its male counterpart: "In total, $576m was on the line for the participants of men's tournament last year, while just $15m in prizes is available for the women in Canada."
The use of artificial pitches has also been regarded as a slight on the women's game, while the decision to house opposing teams in the same hotel prompted Germany's coach to complain: "This doesn't meet the level of professionalism you should expect at a World Cup".
For Carli Lloyd, though, the 2015 Women's World Cup will be forever be known as the stuff of dreams. A goal from the halfway line to seal a hat-trick in a World Cup Final – not even Pele could match that.