VANCOUVER: US coach Jill Ellis hailed the “hot” form of Carli Lloyd whose 13-minute hat-trick marked a goal run which set the US on the way to a 5-2 World Cup rout over defending champions Japan.
The 32-year-old had scored in the Stars and Stripes’ three previous games against top-ranked Germany, China and Colombia so Ellis opted to play the midfielder up front beside sole forward Alex Morgan.
And the decision paid off with the Americans leading Japan 4-0 after just 16 minutes at BC Place Stadium.
“Carli was doing tremendously well in the attacking part of her game,” explained Ellis. “It was a natural decision for me to put her in a higher position and play her there. I still make her defend but she relishes that role. I’m incredibly proud of all the players who stepped up.”
Lloyd opened after just three minutes on front of 53,341 mostly US fans in Vancouver with the second coming two minutes later.
Lauren Holiday found the net on 14 minutes and Lloyd claimed a sensational third from the middle of the pitch after 16 minutes.
It gave the player from New Jersey six goals in the tournament and the Golden Ball award for the top player.
Yuki Ogimi got one back on 27 minutes, with US defender Julie Johnson’s 52nd-minute own-goal giving Japan a second.
But two minutes later Tobin Heath got a fifth in past goalie Ayumi Kaihori in what was the highest-ever scoring women’s World Cup final.
“That was one of our mantras — ‘start fast, finish strong’,” said Ellis, who had coached various national youth and university teams before being appointed US head coach in May 2014 after Tom Sermanni was sacked.
The 48-year-old England-born coach said that despite the criticism she had never doubted the team. “Did I envisage us winning? Yes, I let myself go, I envisaged us lifting the trophy, but five is kind of a dream come true.”
Lloyd admitted it was hard to take in. “It’s a surreal moment, we just wrote history today and brought this World Cup trophy home which is unbelievable,” said Lloyd, who also scored the goals that gave the US victory over Japan in the 2012 Olympics.
Japan coach targets Olympics
Japan coach Norio Sasaki said the ‘Nadeshiko’ would now be focusing on qualifying for the 2016 Olympics after losing their Women’s World Cup title.
“Only two teams from Asia can go to the Olympics, so it will be tough,” said Sasaki, whose challengers include World Cup rivals Australia, South Korea and China, who all reached the knockout rounds in Canada.
Sasaki vowed, “This is not the end of football in Japan. The positive is that we made the final and women’s football in Japan is getting a lot of attention.”
Published in The Express Tribune, July 7th, 2015.
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