Women’s World Cup: US defeats Japan, 5-2, wins tournament

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In a remarkable contest, the U.S. defeated Japan, 5-2, to win its first World Cup since 1999. It was sweet revenge for the USWNT, which lost Japan in the 2011 final on penalty kicks, and Abby Wambach was able to cap her career with the one major title that had eluded her.

Carli Lloyd notched a hat trick just 16 minutes into the game, and her final goal — an eye-popping strike from midfield — actually gave the U.S. a 4-0 lead, because Lauren Holiday had added her own tally in the 14th minute. Japan fight back and made the score 4-2 shortly into the second half, but Tobin Heath iced things with a goal in the 54th minute, giving U.S. Coach Jill Ellis plenty of time to think about who to send into the game, and when, in order to properly savor the victory.

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Final match statistics from FIFA had Japan with an edge in possession percentage, 52-48, plus free kicks, 15-12, but there was no doubt which was the better side. The U.S. jumped all over the defending champs, winding up with advantages in shots (15-12), on-target shots (7-4) and corners (7-3).

The U.S. became the first team to win three women’s World Cups. Hope Solo won the tournament’s Golden Glove award for her stellar goalkeeping efforts, and Carli Lloyd won the Golden Ball after tying Germany’s Celia Sacic for the overall lead in goals at six, with all six coming in the knockout rounds, three in the final. Lloyd became the first American to win the Golden Ball since Carin Jennings in 1991, the inaugural year of the tournament.

86th minute: Alex Morgan was replaced by 40-year-old Christie Rampone, who is being given a chance to revel in the moment as the oldest player in tournament history. Rampone is the last active link to the 1999 U.S. squad — the last to bring this country a World Cup title.

79th minute: Abby Wambach came on, replacing Tobin Heath and accepting the captain’s arm band. The 50,000-plus fans cheering for the U.S. at B.C. Place went wild, recognizing the moment for the U.S.’s all-time scorer, among men or women, who is just a few minutes away from winning her first World Cup.

73rd minute: There’s no quit in the Japanese side. There’s plenty of desperation, of course, and the defending World Cup champs are starting to come at the U.S. net in waves. Defender Saori Ariyoshi had the ball on her foot in the penalty area with some space, but she shot it too high. Hope Solo was forced to make a save right on her goal line in the 75th minute.

60th minute: Megan Rapinoe was replaced by Kelley O’Hara, leaving the field to a thunderous ovation on her 30th birthday. O’Hara scored a crucial goal in the semifinal win over Germany but will be counted on at least as much for her defensive prowess. Moments earlier, Japan had used its third and final substitution, replacing forward Shinobu Ohno with forward Mana Iwabuchi.

54th minute: This is simply dizzying. Japan barely had time to think about how it was just two goals down before Tobin Heath scored for the U.S., giving it another 3-goal lead.

52nd minute: Was someone saying that the U.S. had come out strong? Japan just cut the lead to 4-2, albeit on an own goal off the head of Julie Johnston that Hope Solo was unable to keep out of the net.

49th minute: The U.S. has come out strong in second half. Not content to sit on a 4-1 lead, and perhaps wary of a desperate Japan squad coming out of the locker room, the USWNT has taken the fight to its opponents. Ali Krieger had a dangerous-looking opportunity blocked in the penalty area, and moments later, Morgan Brian forced the Japanese goalie to make a tough save. (By Des Bieler – washingtonpost)