AMERICA! Hell yeah! The USWNT laid a good o’ fashioned beatdown on Japan, 5-2, to capture their record third World Cup.
America, and specifically Carli Lloyd, came out inspired and fired-up. Lloyd had a hat trick within the first 16 minutes and Lauren Holiday added a strike to make it 4-0 before the game was barely begun.
Japan did not roll over. Ogimi got a goal back in the 27th minute. Japan shut down our attack and then, in the 52nd minute, the all-world Miyama hit a dangerous freekick forcing US centerback Johnston into an awkward play that accidentally went in for an own goal. At 4-2, with almost 40 minutes left to play, the stage was set for an epic US meltdown.
Remember 2011. Epic meltdown. The final between the US and Japan was a nil-nil nailbiter before Morgan broke the tie in the 69th minute. The US had only to hold the lead for twenty minutes, but they cracked. Miyama equalized in the 81st to force extra time. Deep into the first extra period, Wambach slammed home the would-be winner. But the US held that lead for just the next thirteen minutes before Japan’s Sawa equalized again. Just three minutes before the final whistle, the US had yet again coughed up the lead. We caved during penalties, our spirit broken.
Back to 2015. At 4-2, Japan was dug in, chasing well and the game had gotten very, very real. The US attack had been stifled and Japan had notched two unanswered goals. Ghosts of 2011 began to haunt the minds of American supporters. Kudos to Lloyd and Wambach, but Tobin Heath’s 54th minute goal was the biggest of the game. Just 2 minutes after closing the deficit, Japan was down 3 again after Heath’s cold-blooded dagger. Such a quick, composed response exorcised all the demons.
Still the Nadeshiko are a proud team and never went softly into the evening. Despite the hype around Marta, Sinclair and Angerer, Japan has been the only real competition to the US for the crown. Yesterday’s game was the rubber match after World Cup 2011 and the 2012 Olympics. The case is closed and the USA staked their claim as top team of the second decade of the 21st century.
No one has forgotten 1999. No one will forget 2015.