- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 5, 2015

The U.S. women’s national soccer team overwhelmed Japan, 5-2, at Sunday’s World Cup Final and cemented America’s dominance of women’s soccer as the first nation to win the world championship three times.

The game in Vancouver, British Columbia, was settled quickly as the U.S. took a 4-0 lead inside the game’s first 16 minutes, led by a hat trick from star midfielder Carli Lloyd.

Lloyd, who received the Golden Ball as the tournament’s top player, scored three goals inside that period — the first hat-trick in a Women’s World Cup Final, the first of which, scored off a corner inside three minutes, was also the fastest goal in a women’s final.

Her third goal, which gave the U.S. a 4-0 lead and brought her tournament total to 6, was a spectacular shot from midfield that caught Japanese netminder Ayumi Kaihori far off her line.

“Speechless. Honestly, I’m so proud of this team,” Lloyd said after the game. “This doesn’t feel real. It hasn’t sunk in. So unbelievably proud of every single person on this team. We just made history.”

Lauren Holiday scored the other first-half American goal, on a volley from a poor Japanese clearance.

PHOTOS: Lloyd scores 3 and US defeats Japan 5-2 for World Cup title

The Japanese women and their precision-passing game were able to rally, closing within 4-2 early in the second half with almost 40 minutes to go, thanks to a first-half goal from Yuki Ogimi off a cross into the penalty area and then a second-half own-goal by American Julie Johnston, who accidentally headed the ball past U.S. keeper Hope Solo.

But Tobin Heath promptly restored the three-goal advantage from a scramble inside the box.

The U.S. victory avenged Japan’s triumph over the U.S. at the last World Cup final in 2011, the Japanese winning on a penalty shootout after the game finished tied, 2-2.

“Miss Lloyd she always does this to us. In London she scored 2 goals and today she scored 3 goals. We are embarrassed,” Japanese coach Norio Sasaki said after the game. “But she is an excellent player and I really respect her and admire her.”

America’s previous World Cup final victories were over Norway in 1991 and China in 1999.

Only Christie Rampone was left from that 1999 team, and she and longtime star Abby Wambach came on as late-game substitutes, Wambach being the object of chants of “We want Abby” from the largely pro-American crowd in a game played less than 40 miles from the U.S.-Canada border.

Wambach is 35 and Rampone 40, and neither woman is expected to be back for the 2019 World Cup in France.

Americans are famously reluctant to embrace soccer, easily the world’s most popular sport, but the U.S. women’s success has prompted smash TV ratings for their games. Vice President Joseph R. Biden was one of the capacity crowd of 59,000 in the B.C. Place stadium.

As one immediate measure of Americans’ interest, throughout the game at least half and sometimes more of the 10 Top Trending Topics on U.S. Twitter were the names of players, #USWNT and other game-related hashtags.

In other individual awards, Solo won the Golden Glove prize for the top keeper, having given up only one goal prior to Sunday’s final and keeping more than 6 hours worth of clean sheets.

The Golden Boot for top scorer went to Germany’s Celia Sasic, who also had 6 goals but missed a penalty in the semi-finals that would’ve given her country a 1-0 second-half lead on the U.S. and possibly changed the outcome (the U.S. won 2-0).

The Best Young Player prize went to Kadeisha Buchanan of host nation Canada.

• Victor Morton can be reached at vmorton@washingtontimes.com.

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