Lloyd leads US to victory with hat-trick
CARLI Lloyd became the first woman to score a hat-trick in a World Cup final as she inspired the United States to a 5-2 demolition of defending champions Japan on Sunday.
The US, winners in 1991 and 1999, became the first nation to win the crown three times and avenged their loss to Japan on penalties in the 2011 final. Lloyd, 32, scored a 13-minute hat-trick, opening with her first after just three minutes on the pitch at Vancouver's BC Place Stadium, with the second coming two minutes later and her third after 16 minutes.
"I was on a mission today," said Lloyd, whose teammates Lauren Holiday (in the 14th minute) and Tobin Heath (54th) also found the net.
Yuki Ogimi got one back on 27 minutes for the Asian champions with their second coming, thanks to a 52nd-minute own-goal by US defender Julie Johnson, in what was the highest-scoring final in the women's tournament.
"It's unreal, it just hasn't sunk in yet," Lloyd said. "I'm mentally fried.
"We knew that if we took it to Japan, they would get nervous on the pitch."
Coach Jill Ellis said her only thought after the early goal-fest was: "Pinch me, wake me up!
"We'd talked about starting fast, and I just knew that the players could deliver.
"These players were born for the big moments," she added. "I envisaged us winning the trophy. I think five (goals) is a dream come true."
It was the third meeting between the two teams in a major championship, with the Americans winning the Olympic gold ahead of Japan in 2012, when Lloyd scored both goals in a 2-1 win.
The stunned "Nadeshiko" were in disarray just minutes into their title defence.
Wearing the captain's armband, Lloyd, who was one of three US players to miss a penalty in the 2011 final, got her first two goals from set pieces as she delivered a performance that saw her presented with the Golden Ball award as the tournament's best player. The player from New Jersey picked up Megan Rapinoe's low cross from the right to tap in.
Two minutes later, the Japanese defence was in meltdown when Lloyd again found her way through following a freekick.
To euphoric chanting of "USA, USA, USA" from the 53,341 fans in the packed stadium, Holiday got a third just before the quarter-hour mark with a volley after a weak defensive header from Azusa Iwashimizu. And just two minutes later, Lloyd completed her hat-trick with a stunning shot from the half-way line, over the head of a stunned Ayumi Kaihori in the Japan goal.
Japan captain Aya Miyama was devastated. "Coming first and coming second are very different, so I am very sorry (we didn't win)," she said, as tears streamed down her face. "It was a tough game, but everyone did best for the team."
US star Abby Wambach came on for the last 10 minutes, with Lloyd handing her the captain's armband.
"I wanted her to put the armband on because she's done so much for our team. It's her last World Cup and she's a legend," said Lloyd.