Saturday,21 October, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1254, (9 - 22 July 2015)
Saturday,21 October, 2017
Issue 1254, (9 - 22 July 2015)

Ahram Weekly

Golden game

The US ended their 16-year FIFA Women’s World Cup drought with a Carli Lloyd hat-trick lifting the Stars and Stripes past holders Japan for their third title

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sp21
Al-Ahram Weekly

US ladies were crowned champions of the one-month FIFA Women’s World Cup which took place in Canada after trouncing Japan 5-2 in a thrilling final on Sunday.

The US thus became the first team to win the Women’s World Cup for a third time.

A scarcely believable four-goal salvo inside the opening 16 minutes meant there was only ever going to be one winner to the joy of the largely pro-USA 53,341 crowd in Vancouver.

It was clear from the beginning how the mighty Americans were determined to snatch the title from the defending champions. They were quickest to the ball from the opening whistle and immediately reaped greater rewards than they could ever have imagined. A low driven Megan Rapinoe corner from the right deceived a flat-footed Japan defence and Lloyd finished first time from near the penalty spot to put a perfect flourish to a training ground move.

Barely 150 seconds had passed on the stadium clock but, incredibly it was about to get even better for the Stars and Stripes. A low free-kick from Lauren Holiday evaded a swathe of players before the ball found its way, almost magnetically, to Lloyd who applied the finishing touch from close range. USA were 2-0 up inside five minutes and Lloyd had nabbed the two fastest goals in Women’s World Cup final history.

Japan were looking uncharacteristically shaky at the back and when central defender Azusa Iwashimizu failed to deal with a Tobin Heath delivery, Holiday latched onto the loose ball to volley home. Only 14 minutes had elapsed but the US already had one hand on the trophy.

Just two minutes later the contest was effectively over as Lloyd completed a 13-minute hat-trick with a goal straight from the realms of fantasy. Collecting the ball inside her own half Lloyd advanced before unleashing a high shot from the halfway line over the head of Ayumi Kaihori, whose desperate back-peddling only resulted in finger-tipping the ball onto the inside of the post and into the net.

Incredibly Lloyd, playing the match of her life, almost scored another, heading just wide and narrowly failing to become the first person to score four in a World Cup final of either gender.

Then it was the turn of Alex Morgan who made a trademark driving run into the box and although she did not make full connection with her shot, Kaihori was still forced into a diving save.

However, Japan grabbed a much-needed goal midway through the opening half thanks to inspired finishing from Yuki Ogimi who ended Hope Solo’s 540-minute unbeaten run by superbly spinning away from marker Julie Johnston and coolly firing home.

The Nadeshiko momentarily looked like they would pull another goal back three minutes later and only some fine scrambling defening prevented a clear shot on goal with Aya Miyama’s final shot unable to trouble Solo.

Japan coach Norio Sasaki threw caution to the wind making two substitutes inside 40 minutes. The heroine of the 2011 final, Homare Sawa, firstly entered the fray soon followed by forward Yuika Sugasawa, in place of central defender Iwashimizu and Nahomi Kawasumi.

Five minutes after the break Morgan Brian forced Kaihori to push a long-rage effort over the crossbar, but it was Japan who managed to reduce the deficit further as Johnston could only get a glancing header on Miyama’s perfectly-flighted free-kick inadvertently directing the ball past Solo.

Yet the US restored their three-goal margin almost immediately as Heath netted from close range after Morgan Brian provided the assist after Kaihori was unable to deal with a corner.

Striker Morgan then looked to get her name on the scoresheet with a sharp turn and shot narrowly wide. While there were to be no further goals, some of the biggest roars of the day were reserved for the late introductions of veterans Abby Wambach and Christie Rampone.

The game was a repeat of the 2011 final which Japan won on penalties.

The pulsating finale to an entertaining tournament was the highest-scoring final in the tournament’s history, and matched the highest scoring men’s final, when Brazil defeated Sweden by the same scoreline in 1958.

Confederation of African football (CAF) President Issa Hayatou, standing in at the final for FIFA President Sepp Blatter, presented the World Cup trophy to former captain Rampone and veteran striker Abby Wambach.

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