Sixteen minutes into the first half of the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup Final on Sunday between U.S. and Japan would ultimately end the game before it was even over. Japan’s fate was written after U.S. women’s national team (USWNT) midfielder Carli Lloyd scored a hat trick — punishing Japan’s defense ruthlessly and becoming the fastest player to score a hat trick in World Cup history. Her first goal would be within the first three minutes and third goal was a 60-yard launch from the half line, tipping off the fingertips of Japan’s goalkeeper Ayumi Kaihori. Japan’s Yuki Ogimi curled a shot past Hope Solo in the first half and the U.S. scored an unlucky own goal off the head of Julie Johnston, securing two total goals for Japan. Lauren Holiday scored a volley off of a failed clearance by Japan’s defense and Tobin Heath would secure the team’s fifth goal, resulting in a 5-2 win over Japan. The game is now the highest-scoring Women’s World Cup final in history and ties with the highest scoring men’s final record of 5-2, Brazil vs. Sweden in 1958.
Before the final game came into fruition, the USWNT performed superbly throughout the entire tournament. In particular, the mentality of the team is one to take note of. The team calls their substitutes “game changers”, which rang especially true in the semifinal game against Germany, where the typical starters sat the bench while the game changers altered the entire style of play. The speed of play was quicker, lots of shots were taken and there was constant pressing offensively, with plays and runs involving the defense. Collectively, you could tell the USWNT was going to advance a great deal in the World Cup, far before the final match began. The strong defense led by Becky Sauerbrunn, Julie Johnston, Meghan Klingenberg, Ali Krieger and goalkeeper Hope Solo kept the team at a total of 540 shutout minutes, putting them on the record board. The changes made on the field were all due to USWNT’s coach, Jill Ellis who made switches on the field that impacted the rest of the tournament play. The team was determined to not let a repeat of the 2011 Women’s World Cup final loss in Germany against Japan repeat itself.
In the 79th minute, Abby Wambach would make her final appearance on the World Cup stage substituting for Lloyd who took off her captain armband and put it on Wambach’s arm, as she puts an end to her 25th World Cup appearance. She holds second in tournament history for most Women’s World Cup appearances. Wambach would then give the captain’s badge to Christie Rampone, who was the first 40-year-old to ever play in a Women’s World Cup game.
The last time the USWNT won the World Cup was in 1999 in penalty kicks against China and this season, this team has quite frequently been compared to the ‘99ers whose friendship and work ethic set a high standard for teams to follow. Sixteen years later, the world has seen a champion group of women take precedence, continuing to set an example for young girls all over the world who aspire to be athletes and compete at the highest level.
The victory was shared between the veterans of the team and the young players who collectively held ground. The torch has been passed from the ‘99ers to the ‘15ers. July 5, 2015 is a day in history that makes you proud to be an American.