The United States scored four goals in the first 16 minutes of the Women’s World Cup Final on Sunday, beating rival Japan 5-2 in a rematch of the 2011 final that the Japanese won on penalty kicks.
Many people expected a close, highly competitive game on Sunday. Instead, the Americans scored twice in the first five minutes and then doubled their lead to 4-0 just one-sixth of the way through the match.
At that point, the game was over.
“I think everyone was stunned,” USA Today sportswriter Martin Rogers said on CBS Sports Radio’s After Hours with Amy Lawrence. “It was an incredible start. The Americans, you have to remember, had only scored four goals in the group stage of this tournament in four-and-a-half hours of play, and today they scored four goals in the first 15 minutes. It was an extraordinary way to begin a World Cup, and they basically had the game won before it had even gotten underway properly.”
Carli Lloyd stole the show for the U.S., recording a hat trick in the first 16 minutes of play. Her first two goals came off set pieces, while the third was a strike from midfield that beat Japanese goalie Ayumi Kaihori, who had ventured too far past her back line.
“Carli Lloyd blossomed into a true, genuine, international superstar today,” Rogers said. “She was a player who had scored clutch goals before, but nothing like this. An incredible hat trick to start the game, and the Americans are deserved champions”
Big-game heroics are nothing new to Lloyd, who scored game-winning goals for the U.S. in both the 2008 and 2012 Olympic finals.
“She’s no stranger to stepping up when it counts,” Rogers said. “She’s a frustrating player for many American fans when, by her own coach’s admission, she’s often the worst player on the field. But she really seems to step it up when it matters most. She takes risks and sometimes they pay off when it truly counts. That certainly happened today. She’s been operating in a more free-flowing roll since the quarterfinal stage of this tournament, and this was the most dramatic moment of what’s been an impressive career. Sometimes you find players that they’re a little bit over-awed by big occasions. Carli Lloyd is certainly not one of those people. She’s someone who loves the big occasion and we saw that in full effect today.”
The United States entered the World Cup as a favorite but was underwhelming in its first few matches. The Americans looked sluggish and out of sorts in a scoreless draw against Sweden and struggled to get by Nigeria and Colombia.
“Really at that point, no one genuinely thought of them as a legitimate title contender,” Rogers said, “but they learned from each experience. Each bad game that they had, Jill Ellis made a slight change, and the pivotal one was before the quarterfinal against China when she said, ‘Carli Lloyd, you have your freedom now.’ And she allowed Lloyd not to be stuck in a holding midfield role but to really join the offense as often as possible and Lloyd loved it. She blossomed from that moment on, and the rest is history.”