Having spent four years dwelling on their painful penalty-shootout defeat to Japan in the Final of the FIFA Women’s World Cup Germany 2011™, USA needed just five minutes to sweep away the frustration when the two sides met again in Sunday’s Canada 2015 showpiece.
That was all the time it took for Carli Lloyd, who missed a spot-kick in that fateful shootout, to fire the Americans into a 2-0 lead and on the road to a third world title.
Having scored her side’s winner in the quarter-final defeat of China PR and then the opener in the semi-final victory over Germany, the insatiable Lloyd saved the best till last, following up her opening two-goal salvo against the Nadeshiko with a sensational third goal 16 minutes in: a dipping strike from the centre circle.
Not surprisingly voted the Live Your Goals Player of the Match, the attacking midfielder also ended the tournament with the adidas Golden Ball in her hands and the adidas Silver Boot tucked under her arm for good measure, reward for a stunning few weeks’ work that brought her six goals and one assist.
Despite being weighed down by all that silverware and her winner’s medal, Lloyd summoned up the energy for a post-match chat with FIFA.com.
FIFA.com*: You started the final as if you had it all mapped out in your head. Did you ever imagine scoring a hat-trick like that?
Carli Lloyd: (laughs*) Oh yes. I pictured it a few times, but I have to say I never thought it would work out so well. I’m so happy with the ways things have ended. It’s what the team and everyone who’s been involved in this win deserves. We’re so proud. It’s unreal and it still hasn’t sunk in. It’s hard to believe that everything could have gone so well.
*Was it just one of those rare days where everything you touched turned to gold?
*It’s a bit like that, something that maybe just happens once in your career, when everything you try comes off and nearly every shot goes in the back of the net. Performances like that – and not just mine – come down to a lot of hard work and hours and hours of training and preparation for the big occasion. We always visualise games and what we want to do on the pitch, and you learn to be focused for the whole tournament. We were on a mission today. I wanted to win the World Cup, and with the support of the team I just did what had to be done to make that happen.
Your coach Jill Ellis said she had to pinch herself after the first quarter of an hour because she couldn’t believe what was happening. Were you surprised at how well you were playing?
It’s pretty amazing and we didn’t believe we could do something like that. We’ve shown in every match that we were ready and we’re very proud of our victories, but we made in history in getting off to a start like that against the world champions, and we took the trophy home.
*Japan are an integral part of your career now. You missed a penalty against them in the shootout at the Germany 2011 Final. You then scored twice against them in the final of the Women’s Olympic Football Tournament London 2012. And now you’ve scored this hat-trick. *
That’s right, though that penalty miss is a long time ago now. That’s the way it is. That’s what happens. I never really dwelt on it and I just turned the page and looked to keep moving forward in my career. We’ve spent every day trying to get better, and that’s what’s brought us here.
After a performance like that, is it true to say that this is the greatest team American women’s football has ever produced?
I’m convinced it is. What we’ve done is just legendary. We started so well, especially up front, but we stayed focused and solid. We stuck to our gameplan and we scored five goals in the final. It wasn’t an easy road but we finished first and unbeaten in the so-called group of death. We weren’t the best, and we came into the tournament second in the world ranking. We knew that nothing was going to be easy. What we’ve done is remarkable. It’s a historic performance.
After all your exploits and awards in this tournament, you’re now front-page news around the world. Are you ready for the spotlight?
I think my career has gone up a level, that’s for sure. There’s always room for improvement, though, and I know I have to keep on working hard.
You were just one goal or one assist away from winning the adidas Golden Boot.
I know what I’ve got left to achieve. I’ll be going for it at the next World Cup.
*Does a day like today make up for all the disappointments you’ve had and the sacrifices you’ve made?
*No, I don’t really see it like that. I think the bad times are important too. That’s what makes you stronger and better able to aim high. Obviously, it’s great to have the good times but I also think you learn more during the bad.