Women's World Cup 2015, USA vs Japan report: Carli Lloyd hat-trick sets up Americans for decisive victory

Lloyd scored in the third, sixth and 16th minutes, the last a speculative shot from the centre line that lobbed Japan goalkeeper Ayumi Kaihori

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The Independent Football

United States captain Carli Lloyd scored a hat-trick inside the opening 16 minutes of Sunday's 5-2 World Cup final win over Japan, enhancing her reputation for scoring in the biggest matches while making amends for a rare blemish in the 2011 final.

The American midfielder became the first woman to score a hat-trick in a World Cup final and just the second player overall after Geoff Hurst netted three goals in England's 4-2 win over Germany in the men's 1966 final.

But unlike Hurst, whose three goals spanned more than 100 minutes with the last two coming in extra time, Lloyd needed just 13 minutes to complete her hat-trick.

Her first came in the third minute when Megan Rapinoe drove a low diagonal ball across the area and Lloyd timed her run to perfection, meeting the ball with a powerful, first-time drive past Japan keeper Ayumi Kaihori.

 

If Japan were shocked by conceding so early, they were utterly stunned two minutes later when Lloyd doubled the lead -- again from a set-piece.

It was a low ball into the box, this time from a Lauren Holiday free-kick which the Japan defence failed to clear with the ball falling for Lloyd to gleefully slot home.

Japan barely had time to regroup before they found themselves 3-0 down in the 14th minute when an awful attempted headed clearance from Azusa Iwashimizu fell to Holiday on the edge of the box, who blasted in a volley.

Two minutes later came one of the most remarkable goals witnessed in a World Cup final.

Lloyd, gathering the ball in her own half, spotted Kaihori far off her line and shot from the half-way line. The scrambling Japanese keeper could only touch the ball onto the post and into the net.

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Japanese goalkeeper Kaihori was caught far off her line and could only touch the ball onto the post and into the net

Japan restored a little bit of pride in the 27th minute when Yuki Ogimi turned Julie Johnston in the area and fired past Hope Solo to make it 4-1.

The Japanese have been widely praised for their short-passing game but it was an old-fashioned route that brought them, temporarily, back into the game early in the second half.

Aya Miyami's long free-kick into the box was aimed at Sawa and Johnston rose for the ball but could only deflect a header past a helpless Solo.

The glimmer of hope flickered for just two minutes, however, when a U.S. corner fell to Morgan Brian beyond the far post and she did well to find Tobin Heath, who confidently fired home to make it 5-2 and effectively end Japan's hope of a comeback

Lloyd missed a penalty in the 2011 World Cup final when the US lost to Japan in a shootout, but has otherwise made a habit of scoring in the biggest matches.

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Tobin Heath celebrates her goal

 

She scored the winner in extra time against China in the 2008 Olympic gold medal match in Beijing as well as both goals in her country's 2-1 win over Japan in the 2012 Olympic final.

Japan, winners four years ago, were utterly stunned as the U.S's deadly finishing ensured they added to their 1991 and 1999 titles, and became the first nation to win the Cup three times.

The game, played in front of 53,341 spectators at a packed BC Place, was the highest-scoring Women's World Cup final ever and, for non-Japanese at least, was an entertaining finale to what has been an excellent tournament.

No team had ever scored more than two goals in a Women's World Cup final but the brilliant Lloyd went one better all by herself -- and within just 16 minutes.

 

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