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Carli Lloyd's hat trick leads U.S. over Japan in Women's World Cup final

07/06/2015 12:10 EDT | Updated 07/05/2016 05:59 EDT
VANCOUVER - Carli Lloyd caught herself daydreaming before the Women's World Cup.

In between sprints on an empty practice field, she envisioned scoring four goals in the final.

Three turned out to be more than enough.

Lloyd put an exclamation point on her country's stunning four-goal barrage in the opening 16 minutes with an audacious hat-trick strike from the halfway line as the United States demolished Japan 5-2 in Sunday's final for its record third title and first since 1999.

"You can be physically strong, you can have all the tools out there, but if your mental state isn't good enough you can't bring yourself to bigger and better things," said Lloyd. "I was on a mission today."

The American captain scored off a corner kick in the third minute and a free kick in the fifth before lobbing a ball over Japanese goalkeeper Ayumi Kaihori in the 16th minute from more than 50 yards out with the score already 3-0 for the first hat trick in a Women's World Cup final.

"I've dreamed of scoring a shot like that," said Lloyd, who won the Golden Ball as the tournament's best player. "When you're feeling good mentally, physically, those plays just are instincts and it just happens. I feel like I blacked out the first 30 minutes or so in that game.

"It's just crazy. Unbelievable."

Lauren Holiday and Tobin Heath had the other goals for the Americans. Julie Johnston put a ball in her own net, while Yuki Ogimi had the other goal for Japan, which won its only World Cup by beating the U.S. on penalties four years ago.

Lloyd helped get a measure of revenge after that defeat by scoring two goals in the Americans' 2012 Olympic final victory over Japan and went one better on Sunday.

"Miss Lloyd, she always does this to us," Japanese head coach Norio Sasaki said through a translator. "We are a bit embarrassed, but she's an excellent player."

The U.S. had a stuttering start to the tournament, but steadily improved once the knockout round began and put it all together in the final.

"I just knew that the players could deliver," said U.S. head coach Jill Ellis. "To me, it's no surprise. As the teams get harder and the pressure gets bigger, this team gets better because that's what they're about."

In front of a raucous pro-American crowd of 53,341 at B.C. Place Stadium that included U.S. Vice-President Joe Biden, Lloyd opened the scoring on a nicely worked corner kick, guiding home Megan Rapinoe's low drive after making a strong run to the penalty spot.

Lloyd then made it 2-0 with her fifth of the tournament just two minutes later by poking home Holiday's free kick in a chaotic penalty area.

"I've dedicated my whole life to this and everything comes second," said Lloyd. "But I wouldn't have it any other way."

Holiday went from provider to scorer in the 14th minute, jumping on a terrible mistake by defender Azusa Iwashimizu to volley a shot past a helpless Kaihori.

Lloyd then completed her hat trick two minutes after that on a goal that will be replayed over and over. She picked up the ball in her own territory and moved towards half before unleashing a shot towards goal. Kaihori stumbled as she tracked back and could only watch as the ball went off her hand, off the post and in.

"There's something different in the air within our team these last few days," said Lloyd. "There was no hesitation, there was no doubt. We were just super excited, super anxious to start this game and to play it. We knew if we took it to Japan they would get nervous on the pitch."

Japan got one back in the 27th minute when Ogimi collected a ball in front of Hope Solo and beat the U.S. 'keeper with a high shot.

The goal was the first conceded by the Americans since their opening game, a span of 540 minutes.

Japan cut the lead to 4-2 in the 52nd minute when Johnston accidentally headed a free kick into her own goal, but Heath got that one back just two minutes later on another U.S. corner that killed any chance of a comeback.

"I don't think it's entirely sunk in," said Lloyd. "It's a surreal moment. It's been amazing. We just wrote history today and brought this World Cup trophy home."

Note: Canadian defender Kadeisha Buchanan was named the top young player at the tournament. ... American striker Abby Wambach — a member of the national team for 15 years — had a reduced role in her final World Cup, but came on in the 79th minute to a rousing ovation.

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