A rapid fire hat-trick by Carli Lloyd powered the United States to 5-2 victory over Japan in the final of the FIFA Women's World Cup on Sunday in Vancouver.
Lloyd's third goal put the defending champions into a 4-0 hole after just 16 minutes, and although Japan was able to strike back, the gap proved too much as the United States became the first three-time winner in tournament history.
The victory avenged a loss in the 2011 final, in which Japan scored a late equalizer and went on to win in a penalty shootout. The United States defeated Japan for the gold medal at the 2012 London Olympics, but the Americans had long eyed the final at Vancouver's BC Place Stadium as the place they would even the score.
The fired-up Americans needed just three minutes to get on the scoreboard, when Lloyd sprinted in to meet Megan Rapinoe's corner kick and slot it past keeper Ayumi Kaihori. Two minutes later, on a free kick from outside the same corner, Julie Johnston back-heeled a pass to Lloyd, who tapped it in for a 2-0 lead.
In the 14th minute, defender Azusa Iwashimizu's attempted clearance of a long cross went straight into the air, and Lauren Holiday was there with a well-timed volley for the third goal.
Lloyd completed her hat-trick two minutes later in amazing fashion. Taking the ball over the midfield stripe, she launched a long and seemingly harmless shot. But it seemed to catch Kaihori, who had come off her line, by surprise. As the Japanese keeper backpedaled, she tumbled backward and got a hand on the ball, but it trickled into the net.
With the goal, Lloyd tied Germany's Celia Sasic as the tournament's leading scorer with six. Both players were on the short list for the Golden Ball award as the tournament's best player, which went to Lloyd.
Japan, which had few chances, got its first goal in the 27th minute when Yuki Ogimi took a cross from Nahomi Kawasumi, shedded a defender, then turned and fired into the upper left corner. It was just the second goal allowed by US keeper Hope Solo in seven matches.
The gap was cut to two goals seven minutes into the second half on an own goal by Johnston, who went up simultaneously for a header with veteran Homare Sawa, who came on as a substitute with 12 minutes left in the first half.
American Tobin Heath, however, made it 5-2 in the 54th minute on a pass off a corner kick.
The Japanese never ceased attacking in the second half, but could not break through the US defence.