Recap: What a climax to the 2015 Women’s World Cup. It was a final that was effectively decided after just 16 minutes as the United States ran riot on Japan. The defending champion was simply shell-shocked by the intensity of the Americans’ start and its expertly worked set-pieces. Carli Lloyd was the undoubted star of the show, once again showing her brilliant talent with two clinical finishes off Megan Rapinoe deliveries. But, after Lauren Holiday and thumped in a third, it was Lloyd’s third goal that will be long remembered. Having displayed the vision to look up from halfway and see the Japan goalkeeper off her line, she them produced a wondrous chip to find the net. It was a spectacular way to become the first hat-trick scorer in Women’s World Cup final history and only the second man or woman to manage the feat.
And it would be a decisive contribution, although Japan regained some pride by refusing to simply fade away easily. A fine goal before halftime from Yuki Ogimi gave the Japanese a lifeline and Julie Johnston’s own goal early in the second half threatened to really reignite the contest as the U.S. lost its early intensity. But the Americans crucially hit back almost immediately thanks to Tobin Heath’s well-taken finish, which halted Japan’s momentum. After the agony of losing the final on penalties to Japan four years ago, this time it had the comfort of playing out the final minutes knowing that their hands would soon be on the trophy. And it meant that Abby Wambach, playing in her fourth World Cup, got to make a final appearance ahead of a long-awaited first triumph.
It was, though, Jill Ellis’ decision to drop Wambach from the team and allow Lloyd the extra freedom behind a central striker that proved the defining point of the Americans’ triumph in this tournament. Having been underwhelming through the early rounds of the World Cup, the team came to life in the semifinals to beat world No. 1 Germany and then topped even that performance to knock off 2011 winners Japan in a final that will live long in the memory.
Women's World Cup final 2015 highlights:
Fulltime: USA 5-2 Japan. The U.S. wins the 2015 Women's World Cup.
Tears of delight for the U.S. at winning its first Women’s World Cup title since 1999. And there’s tears of pain for Japan at relinquishing its title.
90 mins: Three minutes of injury time before the United States will get its hands on the World Cup trophy.
86 mins: The U.S. now has the luxury of giving some of its squad players a taste of World Cup final glory. Christie Rampone, the only member of the 1999 winning team still at this World Cup, replaces Alex Morgan.
84 mins: Jill Ellis with a big smile on her face on the U.S. bench. After taking plenty of, not unjustifiable, criticism as the U.S. struggled through the early rounds of the tournament, she’s now minutes away from leading her country to World Cup glory just over a year after taking over as coach in difficult circumstances. Her tactical shift in the semifinal against Germany was her and her team’s defining moment.
82 mins: One veteran in her final World Cup appearance brings down another, with Sawa earning a yellow card for her tackle from behind on Wambach.
79 mins: And here comes Abby Wambach. The 35-year-old replaces Tobin Heath, and in her fourth and final Women’s World Cup will surely be picking up a long-awaited first winner’s medal in a matter of minutes. A further sign of her status on the team, Lloyd gives her the captain’s armband.
76 mins: Big chance for Japan to make it 5-3. The U.S. again struggles to deal with a ball into the box, but Yuika Sugasawa heads straight at Solo from six yards out. Could that be the end of any Japanese hope?
74 mins: Solo comes and punches a corner and Sakaguchi sends a shot over the crossbar.
73 mins: Japan is causing that U.S. backline, and Johnston in particular, plenty of discomfort, but three goals in 17 minutes is an incredibly big ask.
71 mins: O’Hara tries to build on her goal against Germany, but shoots over Japan’s crossbar.
68 mins: A flutter of excitement as Sawa goes down in the American penalty area but the referee decides to give a free-kick to the U.S. rather than a penalty for Japan.
66 mins: Almost a chance for Lloyd to get her fourth goal. Saki Kumagai played a short back-pass that the hat-trick hero immediately looked to seize upon, but Japan goalkeeper Kaihori got there first before Lloyd went in late on the challenge.
63 mins: And up the other end Morgan goes close for the U.S., turning well after picking up Heath’s cross but firing wide of the target. The forward will be desperate for a goal having struggled with her finishing since returning to fitness.
62 mins: Rumi Utsugi goes close for Japan with a low drive that whistles past Solo’s post.
61 mins: And the U.S. now makes its first change. Megan Rapinoe, again hugely influential, comes out, to be replaced by Kelley O’Hara, who scored her first international goal in the semifinal win over Germany.
59 mins: Japan makes its third and final substitution, with Shinobu Ohno being replaced by Mana Iwabuchi.
And here's a look at Tobin Heath's effort to quickly restore the Americans' three-goal advantage.
Here's a Vine of Julie Johnston's own goal, which ever so briefly got Japan within two goals.
54 mins: Goal! USA 5-2 Japan (Tobin Heath)
Just as Japan was given real hope, the U.S. extinguishes it. It’s a third set-piece goal from the Americans in this final and it comes after Kaihori flapped at a Rapinoe corner, Brian turned the ball back into the danger zone and Heath calmly side-footed the ball into the net.
52 mins: Goal! USA 4-2 Japan (Julie Johnston Own goal)
Well now, that changes the context of this final considerably. Miyama put in a dangerous free-kick, and Johnston momentarily lost her bearings, flicking the ball on with her head toward goal to leave Hope Solo scrambling and unable to claw the ball back before it crossed the goal line.
50 mins: Some more fine work from Lloyd down the right leads to a shot from distance from Morgan Brian that Kaihori has to be alert to in order to tip it over the crossbar.
48 mins: And the U.S. has started the second half well, regaining some of the intensity with and without the ball that it lost as the first half wore on.
46 mins: Surely the only danger here is complacency from the Americans. If Jill Ellis’ team can play solidly through the opening few minutes of the half and prevent a second Japan goal then it's hard to imagine that the trophy won't be heading back to the U.S. for the first time since 1999.
The second half kicks off, with the USA leading Japan 4-1
Carli Lloyd has become only the second player, man or woman, to score a hat-trick in a World Cup final. And, while England's Geoff Hurst needed extra time to get his in 1966, she did it inside just 16 minutes. Here's a video of all three of her goals, which took her tally in this tournament to six.
Halftime: USA 4-1 Japan
And that’s the end of perhaps the most incredible 45 minutes of a World Cup final, men’s or women’s, ever played. The U.S. went 2-0 up inside five minutes, thanks to two well-worked Megan Rapinoe set-pieces that Japan woefully failed to deal with and Carli Lloyd finished expertly. And unbelievably it was 4-0 by the 16th minute, first as Lauren Holiday capitalized on another defensive error and then the star American Lloyd lobbed Japan’s goalkeeper from the halfway line. Japan was simply overwhelmed by the intensity of the U.S. play early on, but, to its credit, the champions did manage to steady the ship and end the half on top. Yuki Ogimi’s fine effort gave Japan hope, but the failure to get a second goal before the break surely means there’s too much to do to come back in the second half.
45 mins: Just one minute of stoppage time to be played at the end of the first half, despite five goals and two substitutions. Hmm…
44 mins: A decent looking attack by Japan, but it ends when a cross from the left is easily cut out. Japan surely knows that a second goal before halftime could reignite this final heading into the second half.
42 mins: American shouts for a penalty as Alex Morgan went down under duress from Mizuho Sakaguchi, but it appeared more of a slip from the U.S. striker than a push from the Japan defender.
39 mins: Japan makes its second substitution before halftime, with Nahomi Kawasumi being replaced by Yuika Sugasawa.
38 mins: Japan playing the game at its preferred slower pace right now, but can it possibly mount what would be one of the greatest comebacks ever witnessed?
33 mins: And Japan already makes its first substitution, with the legendary midfielder Homare Sawa, who scored the dramatic extra-time equalizer in the 2011 final, replacing defender Azusa Iwanshimizu.
Here's that goal from Ogimi to get Japan on the score sheet:
29 mins: Almost a second goal for Japan! The U.S. fails to deal with a threatening cross and is left relieved that Aya Miyama’s shot is comfortable for Hope Solo to hold. The U.S. needs to pick the pace back up now.
27 mins: Goal! USA 4-1 Japan (Yuki Ogimi)
The U.S. took its foot of the gas and Japan has given itself the mere flicker of a lifeline with a really well taken goal. Nahomi Kawasumi sent a good ball in from the right and Ogimi did superbly to turn Julie Johnston in the box and then curl a left-footed shot pas Hope Solo. That’s the first goal the U.S. has given up in 540 minutes.
24 mins: So nearly more punishment from the U.S. Alex Morgan showed some good movement to cut inside from the left, but she couldn’t get enough purchase on her shot and the overworked Kaihori made the save.
23 mins: Mizuho Sakaguchi just had a shot for Japan, but Hope Solo had it easily covered. It’s difficult to imagine what’s going through the mind of these Japan players right now. They couldn’t possibly have imagined a start as bad as this. Already its title has surely gone and pride is the only thing the team now has to play for.
And not to be forgotten, here's Holiday's unstoppable volley that made it USA 3-0 Japan.
While there's a brief pause in the action, here's a look at Lloyd's brilliant hat-trick goal:
18 mins: Chance for the USA! And it’s so nearly the Americans’ fifth and Lloyd’s fourth. Meghan Klingenberg put in a fine cross from the left and Lloyd arrived with a powerful header, but directed it just wide of the post. More goals are there for the U.S. if it wants it.
16 mins: Goal! USA 4-0 Japan (Carli Lloyd)
Hard not to be lost for words at this point. Carli Lloyd has just completed her hat-trick and put the United States 4-0 up with less than 16 minutes of the Women’s World Cup final played. And what a goal it was, too. The midfielder looked up from the halfway line and sent a wonderful lob over the head of Japan goalkeeper Ayumi Kaihori, who lost track of the flight of the ball in the sun and couldn’t keep it out, despite getting a glove to it.
14 mins: GOAL! USA 3-0 Japan (Lauren Holiday)
Just incredible. Japan is in complete disarray right now. Tobin Heath’s cross in is met by an awful clearance from the vastly experienced Azusa Iwanshimizu, and the ball falls perfectly for the quickly arriving Holiday to smash a perfect volley home.
13 mins: Japan still really struggling to recover from the incredible early blow of conceding two goals. The holder looks vulnerable every time the U.S. go forward.
And the second:
Here's a Vine of that first goal from Lloyd:
5 mins: GOAL! USA 2-0 Japan (Carli Lloyd)
This is now a start beyond the Americans’ wildest dreams. And it’s nightmare stuff for Japan, as it concedes a goal remarkably similar to the first. This time it’s a low free-kick sent in that Japan can’t clear and, after a flick-on by Julie Johnston, a handball could have been awarded against a Japanese defender before Lloyd got in front of her marker to poke into the net from the center of the six-yard box. A huge hole for Japan to extricate itself from now.
3 mins: GOAL! USA 1-0 Japan (Carli Lloyd)
A dream start for the United States. Megan Rapinoe drilled in a low corner that Japan simply failed to deal with and Lloyd arrived perfectly to strike the ball left-footed into the net to get a goal in her fourth successive game.
2 mins: The Japan half of the field is basking in sunshine, while the U.S. side is already in the shade. That could make it tricky for Japan goalkeeper Ayumi Kaihori early on.
1 min: And Japan gets the 2015 Women’s World Cup final underway!
6:56 p.m. EDT: A stirring rendition of the Star-Spangled Banner from the U.S. team and many in the crowd.
6:55 p.m. EDT: Unsurprisingly, it’s a hugely pro-American crowd over the border in Vancouver for this final. Can Japan pull off another upset?
6:53 p.m. EDT: The two teams emerge from the tunnel at BC Place. Now just the two national anthems to be played and then the 2015 Women’s World Cup final will be underway!
6:30 p.m. EDT: Just 30 minutes now until kickoff at Vancouver’s BC Place as the United States and Japan make their final preparations for a rematch of the 2011 Women’s World Cup final. An amazing eight players in Japan’s starting lineup tonight also started in that match four years ago. The U.S. begins with four of the team that tasted an agonizing defeat on penalties, while its two substitutes that night -- Alex Morgan and Tobin Heath -- get the start this time around.
5.54 p.m. EDT: And Japan also goes with the same team as its semifinal win. Despite struggling past England, coach Norio Sasaki keeps faith with his starting XI for the World Cup final, which is now just over an hour away.
â€” FIFA Women'sWorldCup (@FIFAWWC) July 5, 2015
5:47 p.m. EDT: The United States starting lineup is in, and unsurprisingly it’s the same one that beat Germany 2-0 in the semifinals. Coach Jill Ellis sticks to the 4-2-3-1 formation that brought so much more fluidity to the team’s performance. Abby Wambach, seeking her first Women’s World Cup title at the fourth attempt, will have to make do with starting from the bench.
— U.S. Soccer WNT (@ussoccer_wnt) July 5, 2015
Preview: After a month of competition over a record number of games, the 2015 Women’s World Cup will come to an end at Vancouver’s BC Place on Sunday with a repeat final from four years ago. Defending champion Japan will take on two-time winner the United States for the seventh Women’s World Cup title.
The U.S. will be out for revenge after its painful defeat in a penalty shootout in 2011, but is also seeking to bring a 16-year wait for the title to an end. Winners of three straight Olympic gold medals, the Americans made an underwhelming start to this World Cup, making it through the early rounds thanks to superb defensive performances despite stuttering offensive offerings. But it was clear that the team would have to up its game in possession if it was to have a chance when coming up against the elite teams in the latter stages. In the semifinals, it did just that. A formation change from coach Jill Ellis brought about a much more fluid display and, although it came with a heavy helping hand from two errant referee decisions, a deserved victory over top-ranked Germany in the semifinals.
Japan’s progress had been steady through to the last four. Four World Cup debutantes were dispatched by a single goal, as was Australia in the quarterfinals, with Japan not hitting top gear but again showcasing the technical, short-passing style that helped bring it the trophy and so many admirers in Germany four years ago. Still, there was no doubt that it suffered a major scare against England in the semifinals. Struggling to get on top, it was only a dramatic injury-time own goal from English defender Laura Bassett that took Japan through just as extra time was appearing inevitable.
Check back here for video highlights and live score updates just ahead of kickoff in Vancouver, which is scheduled for 7 p.m. EDT.