In one of the most dominating cup final performances you will ever see, the United States came out and absolutely annihilated Japan in the Women's World Cup final, scoring four goals in the first 16 minutes of the match en route to a 5-2 final score. This is their record third World Cup title, and no one can say that they don't deserve it after a performance like that.
The USWNT pressed relentlessly from the first whistle, scoring on their first two shots of the match, with Carli Lloyd coming up big in the third and sixth minutes. It was a stunning start and one that no one saw coming headed into this match. Most pundits felt that the U.S. would win, but that it would be a more tightly fought, much like when these two played in the 2011 final and Japan came out the victors on penalties.
That wasn't going to be the case this year. The U.S. women were nowhere near done with those two goals. Lauren Holiday scored the United States' third goal in the 14th minute, and just two minutes later Lloyd finished her hat trick with a stunning strike from 54 yards out. The utter and complete dominance of Japan was jaw-dropping and awe-inspiring, and before even 20 minutes had gone by the defending World Cup champions were left wondering what they could possibly do to get back into the match.
Japan finally got a goal of their own in the 27th minute -- coming just seconds before the U.S. could have broken Germany's record World Cup shutout streak -- and got another early in the second half when an awkward ball into the box in the 52nd minute ended with Julie Johnston accidentally turning in an own goal.
The USWNT decided that a mere two-goal lead wouldn't do, and just two minutes later, Tobin Heath knocked in an incredible fifth goal for the U.S. by working the ball in off a set piece. Any hope Japan had of mounting a serious comeback all but died with that goal, though Japan kept on fighting and had several more dangerous attacks down the stretch of the second half.
In the end, Japan's fight came up short despite their admirable quality. By the time USWNT legend Abby Wambach came on for a victory shift in the 78th minuted of her final World Cup, the match was all but over.
This was one of the most dominant performances you will ever see in this sport, and the fact that it came in a World Cup final makes it all the more impressive. The United States now have a third Women's World Cup title -- more than any other country in the history of the tournament -- and became the highest-scoring team in the tournament's history along the way, with 112 goals across all seven editions of the competition.
So congratulations, United States women's national team. You've made history in so many ways with this match. These celebrations are so well earned and so well deserved. You are the World Cup champions once more.
United States: Hope Solo; Meghan Klingenberg, Julie Johnston, Becky Sauerbrunn, Ali Krieger; Morgan Brian, Lauren Holiday; Megan Rapinoe (Kelley O'Hara 61'), Carli Lloyd, Tobin Heath (Abby Wambach 78'); Alex Morgan (Christie Rampone 86')
Goals: Lloyd (3', 5', 16'), Holliday (14'), Heath (54')
Japan: Ayumi Kaihori; Aya Sameshima, Saki Kumagai, Azusa Iwashimizu (Homare Sawa 33'), Saori Ariyoshi; Aya Miyama, Rumi Utsugi, Mizuho Sakaguchi, Nahomi Kawasumi (Yuika Sugasawa 39'); Shinobu Ohno (Mana Iwabuchi 60'), Yuki Ogimi
Goals: Ogimi (27'), Johnston OG (52')
3 things we learned
1. The explosive start was as incredible as it was perfectly played
Against a Japan team that had been controlling and grinding out matches with incredible skill all tournament long, the United States needed to start hot in order to assure a win and rid themselves of the demons from their loss to Japan in the last World Cup final. That's exactly what they did, racing out and putting incredible pressure on Japan's back line from the first whistle. The USWNT scored with their first two shots of the match, and didn't need many more to score another pair of goals. It was a stunning display of dominance the likes of which are rarely seen, and it was the most perfect start the U.S. could have dreamed of.
2. Carli Lloyd had the most clutch performance in a final of all time
Sixteen minutes, three goals. Not only did Lloyd's hat trick run the U.S. out to a huge early lead, it was the fastest hat trick in World Cup history, women's or men's. She scored with her first two shots of the match, and her third was a jaw-dropping 54-yard strike that stunned the world. When the chips were down on the biggest stage of the game, Lloyd put in a performance for the ages.
3. Japan may have lost, but Homare Sawa is still a legend
Homare Sawa was Japan's first substitute of the match, bringing the legendary woman into her second straight World Cup final -- part of the record sixth Women's World Cup she's played in. She was a huge part of Japan's title win in 2011, scoring five goals to finish as the top scorer in the tournament and win the Golden Ball.
At 36 years old, Japan's top all-time scorer was relegated to a lesser role this year, but she still made her presence felt in a big way, with six matches played and some impressive performances off the bench. It's no coincidence that Japan played much better in this match after Sawa came in, and if this was her last action as a player, then it was one worth being proud of.