After a 16-year wait since their last Women's World Cup triumph, the US women's national team left no shadow of a doubt in this year's cup final against Japan at BC Place in Vancouver on Sunday evening, casting aside the defending world champions in an unforgettable 5-2 thumping to claim the program's third World Cup title.
Carli Lloyd continued her heroics with a breathtaking first-half hat trick, scoring twice in the game's opening five minutes to send the Yanks on their way, while Lauren Holiday and Tobin Heath chipped in important tallies of their own to ensure that the gutsy Nadeshiko's comeback bid fell well short.
After all the pageantry and expectation of the pregame, the USA's most reliable attacker wasted almost no time in smashing the deadlock with two stunning goals, both on carefully-crafted set-piece routines.
When Megan Rapinoe stepped up to a US corner kick in the third minute, most everyone expected a typical high, hard delivery into the six-yard box. But instead, she stroked a low ball past the near post in tune with the choreographed movement of several US players – and it carried through a crowd of bodies to Lloyd, who snapped across the ball with a stabbed left-footed finish into the lower right side of the net.
A pumped Lloyd wheeled away towards the corner flag to celebrate her latest clutch goal with her team – but found herself netting her next one barely two minutes later.
Again it came from a rehearsed low corner kick, though this time the ball skipped off a couple of bodies – including Julie Johnston's clever heel flick and a Japanese hand. But before the US could begin to lobby for a penalty kick, Lloyd stole in from the back post to sidefoot a composed shot past goalkeeper Ayumi Kaihori for a shock 2-0 lead.
And it got worse for Japan, much worse.
Less than 10 minutes later defender Azusa Iwashimizu failed to clear a US service into the penalty box, the ball taking a short hop off the BC Place turf and spinning up in the air in a dangerous spot – and Holiday was the first one to arrive, smashing a clinical volley past Kaihori to run the score to 3-0 USA.
Amazingly, Lloyd would pour it on a minute later, pushing the US total to 4-0 – the fastest four goals in Women's World Cup history.
This time Lloyd did her damage from long, long distance, turning towards Japan's goal inside her own half and spying Kaihori way off her line. Her well-struck 60-yard strike humbled the backtracking Kaihori, who could not scramble back in time to keep it out.
The strongly pro-US crowd of 53,341 was stunned, but still deafening as their team took a 4-0 lead. Yet it wasn't long before Japan pegged them back with a well-taken goal as Johnston dived in to block a pass to Yuki Ogimi in the US box, but came off second-best, allowing Ogimi time to turn and fire a curling shot past a flat-footed Hope Solo to cut the deficit to 4-1.
Japan went for broke with two early subs, veteran maestro Homare Sawa coming on for Iwashimizu as the Nadeshiko went to three in the back, and the celebratory air of the halftime break was quieted a bit when they scored again in the 52nd minute.
A teasing set-piece delivery put Johnston in an awkward spot as she leaped to head clear in a tangle of bodies, and the ball skipped off the top of her head and wrongfooted Solo as it bounced into the net for a tough-luck own goal.
But the madness continued as the Yanks responded just two minutes later, yet again on a corner.
The Japan defense proved utterly unable to deal with Rapinoe's inswinger as it flew through their goalmouth, and Brian tracked it down along the far endline and found Heath with a cutback that the winger slammed home to stretch the score to 5-2.
That made it the highest-scoring final in Women's World Cup history, and tied the all-time men's final record, set by Brazil and Sweden's 5-2 shootout in 1958.
Veteran striker Abby Wambach gave the US faithful another reason to cheer when she came in for Heath in the 79th minute. And while she couldn't find a goal of her own, Wambach won't mind a bit now that she and her team have at last gotten their hands on the prize they've hunted for so many years.