Goal! Goal! Goal! Goal!
That’s what the first 16 minutes of today’s World Cup Final felt like, an early United States onslaught that was four years in the making.
In the 2011 World Cup, our hearts were broken in a shootout loss to Japan. While our team avenged the defeat in 2012 by beating Japan for the gold medal, it was clear they still had unfinished business.
From the moment the game kicked off, the focus and drive of our soccer team was undeniable. Right away, we marched down the field for some shots on goal, quickly earning a corner kick.
Three minutes into action, the corner rifled through the defense to a streaking Carli Lloyd, who sliced her way into the box and sent one to the back of the net – 1 to 0! Stunning opening sequence and goal.
Every facet of our ladies’ skills were on display. They broke down defenders with superior dribbling, made precise passes, and stayed on the attack. Once again, on a free kick outside the box two minutes later, Lloyd’s teammate made a nifty pass behind to the captain, who skip-cashed it in! 2-0, five minutes into the World Cup! Stunning.
I don’t know what was possessing us, but the energy was palpable. Japan, rattled, continued to face pressure. On a long ball in front of their box, a header went lame, bouncing high and back towards their own goal. That’s when our girl swooped in for the direct kick, never letting the ball land and rifling one past the outstretched arms of Japan’s goalie! Not 15 minutes in – 3 to 0 U.S.A.! Wow.
You’d think it’d be over. But, the captain Carli noticed an over-aggressive Japanese goalie creeping down the field, and sailed one from midfield. It soared 56 yards, landing beyond the one-hand their goalie could place on the ball for another U.S. goal.
What do you do for the next 74 minutes? There was too much time left to stop scoring. And sure enough, only midway through the first half, Japan beat some lackluster d for their initial goal of the game.
Maybe we were emotionally spent from such a fantastic start. We rode decent defense and inconsistent offense to a 4-1 halftime lead. A break was just what we needed. Back on the attack, Japan actually managed to get a crucial 2nd goal not far into the final half. For the next two minutes, there was a chance for the U.S. to rattle. The goal, after all, was an own-netter. Instead of turning on each other, the girls in white marched back down (two minutes later) and answered, centering a nice pass for the easy score.
That goal calmed everyone down. However, Hope Solo was a proponent in shutting Japan down. She punched close shots near the goal at bay and saved several point-blank tries. Everyone will say it was over in the first 15, but without sustained effort and solid goaltending, Japan was not giving up.
With ten minutes to go, perennial leader Abby Wambach entered the match. Lloyd slid the captain’s band onto her arm, a brilliant gesture. It was almost over, and the girls closed their opponent out with more aggressive soccer. As my coach told me, “It’s a forward-thinking game.”
The girls did just that, rushing the field in Canada as the final horn blew… WORLD CUP CHAMPIONS!
These women are rockstars. They won our hearts, capturing a country not known for it’s love of futbol – but surely sparking a future in millions of young girls and fans everywhere. Congratulations, ladies – you’re on top of the world.