By: McLeod Brown
When the United States women’s soccer team took the pitch against Japan in the final of the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup, many expected a game reminiscent of the 2011 World Cup final, when Japan won on a 3-1 penalty kick shootout after a 2-2 draw through regulation and overtime.
What the entire world witnessed instead was a rout unlike any other ever seen in the FIFA World Cup. The U.S. jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the first 16 minutes behind three goals from Carli Lloyd, giving her the fastest hat trick in World Cup history. Lloyd’s third goal in the 16th minute was a thing of beauty as she blasted the ball from the midfield line, catching Japan goalkeeper Ayumi Kaihori out of position as the ball sailed over her head, giving the U.S. a four goal cushion.
Japan was able to get on the board in the 27th minute when Yūki Ōgimi struck a left-footed shot for the defending champions, making the halftime score 4-1 in the United States favor.
An own goal by the United States’ Julie Johnston cut Japan’s deficit to two goals in the 52nd minute, but Tobin Heath provided the nail in the coffin on the other side just two minutes later, ripping a pass from Morgan Brian past Kaihori to provide the final tally of 5-2.
The five goals were the most scored by any team in the FIFA World Cup, with the combined seven goals tying the most goals in any men’s or women’s World Cup final with the men’s 1958 FIFA World Cup Final.
The victory also moved the United States record against Japan in World Cup play to 3-1. The title was the team’s first in 16 years as they became the first country in history to win three World Cup championships.
The final result was an appropriate send off for U.S. figureheads Abby Wambach and Christie Rampone. Wambach ends her international career as the most decorated player in women’s national team history, holding the record for most goals scored for the national team. Rampone, meanwhile, leaves as the second-most capped player in U.S. history.
Capping a dominant run through the 2015 World Cup, the final victory over Japan will be a footnote for future years as women’s soccer continues to grow. As the older generation of players leaves for the newer generation to take over, we’ll have to wait four more years to see if the 2019 squad can match this one’s intensity. Until then, bring on the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.