WWC Final: USA are World Champions!

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In incredible and wildly unpredictable scenes the USA ran riot against Japan to become World Champions and finally claim revenge four years after their loss in the 2011 final. Jacob Windon and Tom Syrmas report.

What Happened

A first-half Carli Lloyd hat-trick has helped the USA win their third World Cup, outclassing Japan 5-2.

Many expected a typically edgy, tense final but the tone was set early on with four USA goals inside 20 minutes. The record book was not thrown out the window, rather hacked at with a chainsaw, torn to shreds, burnt at the stake and its ashes catapulted into the sea.

Lloyd’s first goal was as straightforward as it was clinical. Megan Rapinoe’s delivery was surgical, cut low and Lloyd’s run was missed completely for the USA number 10 to poke home.

The second goal was almost identical in its conception and defended just as poorly. Another low cross squirmed through a cluster of Japanese defenders and an unmarked Lloyd pounced on the penalty spot.

Japan were being sliced open at every opportunity and it was only a matter of time before a third. A shocking defensive header from Iwashizimu ballooned backwards for Holiday to volley home. 3-0.

If the opening three goals were all consequences of Japan’s incompetence, the fourth was a mark of sheer genius. Carli Lloyd picked up a loose ball in her own half, nudged it past a Japanese defender and let fly from halfway a la David Beckham. 4-0 to the USA.

Ogimi gave Japan hope before half-time, holding off Johnston before curling one in the top left corner.

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The avalanche of goals continued after the break when Johnston, uncharacteristically poor on the day, inadvertently guided Miyama’s free-kick past Hope Solo.

If halving the deficit had restored Japanese belief it was extinguished just two minutes later when Tobin Heath side-footed home after more set-piece chaos.

Abby Wambach and Christie Rampone were both given sentimental cameos but the game had petered out shortly after the USA’s fifth goal.

Standout Performances

It’s not often you can say you’ve scored a hat-trick at a World Cup, even rarer to do it in a final. Rarer still is to strike thrice inside the first 15 minutes, hitting the goal of the tournament in the process. Dropping in behind Alex Morgan, Carli Lloyd was instrumental in the USA’s opening onslaught. Japan were simply oblivious to the threat she posed, ghosting in to score the opener before applying a ruthless touch for her second.

Talking Points

This was one of the most remarkable games you will ever see. Japan could well have been 6-0 down inside twenty minutes, hopelessly stumbling after USA shadows like a pack of hung-over zombies. Norio Sasaki and his charges have a lot of explaining to do after that start. A team who are the best in world football at scrambling cover defence and rigid, packed defensive lines in front of goal, they were effortlessly carved open.

It had the potential to have ruined the spectacle but credit to Japan for making a game of it. It could well have been a procession for the USA which would have been a disaster for the event.

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What it Means

USA lift their third World Cup, their first since 1999, and become the most successful team in history.

Japan made it two consecutive finals along with the USA but now hold the heaviest defeat in a world cup final.

Own goal is just the third and final scorer against the USA at the tournament, level with Lisa De Vanna and Yuki Ogimi.

Needs Work

For the moment the only thing that this American squad needs to work on is the hangover that is almost certainly going to be the black cloud of tomorrow morning. The performance they put on for a partisan crowd at BC Stadium was as close to flawless as one will find in this World Cup, despite the two goals they conceded as Japan were forced to throw the kitchen sink and Hope Solo’s goal.

The goals the Americans scored were tactical brilliance with low drives into the penalty area from wide positions catching Japan completely off guard. The two goals they scored in the opening five minutes from this exact tactic effectively put the game to bed.

For the Japanese this is the kind of result that can result in sweeping changes and harsh self-reflection. While that might not be fair, Norio Sasaki will be wondering why his team buckled under the attacking pressure thrust upon them from the get go and what caused the Japanese defence, which was for so long the spine of their success in Canada, completely crumble at the sight of Carli Lloyd’s magnificent runs from set-pieces. Japan would be foolish to change too much after this performance but they must work on absorbing attacking pressure if they want to repeat their 2011 success.

Goal of the Day

With seven to choose from you’d think this might be a tough decision. You’d be wrong. On 16 minutes Carli Lloyd bagged her hat-trick with the most audacious of goals from precisely half way up the pitch. Spotting Japanese keeper Ayumi Kaihori off her line, Lloyd decided to have a pop from the middle third and belted a long aerial ball towards goal. As it floated and drifted towards the target Kaihori tried desperately to get back but to no avail and the ball bounced over her, into the post and kissed the back of the net. It was ridiculous, it was fanciful, and it was right at home in this most ludicrous of World Cup finals.

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Miss of the Day

Despite Japan’s ineptitude, there were surprisingly few poor misses in this match but Yuika Sugasawa’s miss takes it out more for its timing rather than its clumsiness. With Japan trailing by three goals with 15 minutes to go Sugasawa had a chance to give her team some hope when her head met a floated cross only yards away from goal. Unfortunately for her side she hit it straight at Hope Solo and when she clutched the ball gratefully to her chest she might as well have been holding the trophy then and there.

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