For much of the first half of the World Cup, the U.S. Women’s National team did not look like a team that could win the World Cup. Despite the 3-1 scoreline, the U.S. didn’t have a great opener against Australia. Then they got shutout against Sweden. And the Round of 16 match against Colombia was almost a disaster.
But things changed against China. The Americans went to full-on attack mode, and even though they only scored once, they looked much more dominant. Then in the semifinal, the U.S. took it right to Germany, was the beneficiaries of a couple of breaks and walked out with a 2-0.
And finally in World Cup Final, the U.S. saved their best match for the last match.
Four years of frustration after a disappointing finish against Japan in 2011 were relinquished with four goals in the first half-hour of the match Sunday evening. Carli Lloyd had the game of her life with a hat-trick in the first half, including an incredible long-distance goal from just inside the half-way mark. And despite allowing two goals, the defense did more than enough to get the victory.
In short, the U.S. played it’s best match and proved to the world that it really is the best team.
Unlike almost every other match this tournament, the U.S. struck early and they struck hard. The Americans never even gave Japan a chance in this match. The Japanese had a little shot at the beginning off of the opening kickoff, but after that it was all America.
It can’t be understated how crucial that opening goal from Lloyd was. It was the first time the Japanese had trailed this entire World Cup. Instead of being able to bunker in and keep numbers behind the ball, Japan had to attack and go for a goal, stretching their side out. And that’s where the Americans were able to take complete control. Lauren Holiday’s goal and Lloyd’s third goal were each directly related to Japan being susceptible to the counterattack and being unable to handle the pressure.
And this match displayed everything the Americans knew they had when everyone doubted. The talk for the first half of the tournament was what’s going on with the U.S and it they really had what it took to win it all? Yet all that time the players had that belief that they really could win the title for the first time since 1999. And Sunday night it showed. The U.S. left no doubt who the best team in this tournament was and left those of us questioning the team eating some crow.
And no, this wasn’t quite a perfect game. The shutout streak ended moments before the U.S. could set the World Cup record. Julie Johnston accidentally headed into her own net. And there were still some hairy moments.
But the U.S. was clearly the better team in all facets of the game, even with those few flaws. And it was by far the best match this team played in this tournament and legitimately could be the best ever U.S. Women’s National team match.
This moment feels amazing as a fan and I can only imagine how it feels for all of those players and coaches. Way to go USA and way to save the absolute best match for last.