CARLI Lloyd enjoyed the game of her life as the United States beat Japan 5-2 to win the Women’s World Cup.
Barely 15 minutes had elapsed when Lloyd put the USA 4-0 up, completing her World Cup final hat-trick with a goal from the halfway line - a career peak surely beyond the dreams of any player, male or female.
Lauren Holiday had volleyed the third and though Japan pulled one back through Yuki Ogimi and another when Julie Johnston put through her own goal, Tobin Heath’s goal quickly eased any doubts over the result.
Jill Ellis’ side thus avenged their defeat in the 2011 final between these sides, to the delight of the majority of the 53,341 crowd in Vancouver.
The Americans took the lead with the first attack of note, Megan Rapinoe drilling in a low corner towards the penalty spot where Lloyd, having timed her run perfectly across Azusa Iwashimizu, diverted the ball home to score for the fourth game in succession.
And it was clearly a tactical plan as two minutes later, Holiday sent in a low free-kick which bobbled off defenders on the six-yard line for Lloyd to poke in.
It was 3-0 inside the first quarter-hour as the shell-shocked Iwashimizu, having lost Lloyd at both set-pieces, misjudged a clearance horribly and Holiday finished with a fine volley.
But that classy finish went all but unnoticed as just over a minute later, Lloyd let fly from 60 yards and keeper Ayumi Kaihori back-pedalled, stumbled and could only touch the ball onto the inside of the post before it nestled in the net.
Improbably, it almost got even better for Lloyd moments later as she headed Meghan Klingenberg’s cross just wide, before Mizuho Sakaguchi finally had Japan’s first effort on goal.
They at least managed to pull a goal back, Nahomi Kawasumi crossing from the right to Ogimi, who turned Johnston superbly and finished inside the far post.
They went close to a second when Shinobu Ohno pulled the ball back but Aya Miyama could not beat Hope Solo from the edge of the box.
Japan coach Norio Sasaki put Iwashimizu out of her misery in the 33rd minute as Homare Sawa came on to win the 205th cap of her illustrious career - and made a second change before the interval, bringing on Yuika Sugasawa for Kawasumi.
Kaihori did well to take Rapinoe’s corner with Lloyd again closing in and limit the damage to 4-1 at half-time.
Lloyd’s mishit cross just cleared the crossbar and Kaihori tipped Morgan Brian’s 25-yard drive over - but Japan had hope seven minutes after the interval when Aya Miyama’s free-kick from a deep position glanced off the head of Johnston, wrong-footing keeper Hope Solo for an unfortunate own goal.
It was quickly snuffed out, though, as another Rapinoe corner was not dealt with and Brian set up Heath to finish from six yards.
Mana Iwabuchi replaced Ohno in Japan’s final substitution on the hour before Kelley O’Hara, a scorer in USA’s semi-final win over Germany, replaced Rapinoe.
Japan’s Rumi Utsugi went close with a long-range volley before Alex Morgan shot just wide at the other end.
Iwabuchi’s loose touch allowed Johnston to get a challenge in, and the same attacker then saw a header comfortably saved.
There were farewell World Cup appearances for veteran US stars Abby Wambach and Christie Rampone before American celebrations rang around BC Place at the final whistle.