Although the 5-2 final may indicate otherwise, the U.S. women’s national team didn’t know it was going to win the World Cup when it drew Japan in the final.
“Oh, no. You can never rule out Japan,” U.S. captain Christie Rampone said on CBS Sports Radio’s Tiki and Tierney. “Obviously playing in the last three championships, they’re an incredible team. But we had something special going on and were getting better throughout the tournament, so we were just sticking to the game plan and hoping that we came out on top. And we did.”
That’s putting it mildly. The United States scored four goals in the first 16 minutes, with Carli Lloyd recording arguably the most clutch hat trick in soccer history. Lloyd scored on two set pieces before beating the Japanese keeper from midfield to make it 4-0.
At that point, Rampone and her teammates knew the match was in the bag – for the most part.
“I think once Carli hit that long-range shot from half-field and the ball went in, it was like, ‘Okay, we have this. But let’s not celebrate too early,’” Rampone said. “We went into the locker room saying, ‘All right, this is looking good, but remember: Anything can happen. We scored four goals, they can do the same.’ So (we were) trying to stay focused and in it, but at the same time (we were) like, ‘Wow, is this a dream? Is this really happening?’”
It was. The United States allowed two goals in the second half, including an own goal by Julie Johnston in the 52nd minute that cut the U.S. lead to 4-2. Tobin Heath, however, scored two minutes later to cap the scoring and give the Americans a three-goal advantage once more.
As the minutes ticked away, excitement. Once the final whistle blew, bedlam.
And not just in Vancouver.
“It has been an amazing evolution,” Rampone said of the popularity of women’s soccer. “The game has continued to change, and I’m so excited to have been a part of ’99 all the way to 2015. Just the evolution of the technical side of it – we’re wearing heart monitors and GPSs and (we have) pre-game meetings with the vision of how (we’re going to attack). It’s pretty amazing how we’re breaking down teams. It’s been an amazing evolution and awesome to be part of. And still being able to compete at 40 – I’m feeling good. I’ve been through injuries, two kids. It’s been an amazing journey to still be able to play on the best team in the world.”
Rampone was the oldest player in the World Cup this year. She does not know whether she will stick around for the 2016 Olympics in Brazil.
“It’s still in the air,” she said. “Definitely (the) last World Cup, (so I’m) living this up and I’m going to enjoy this 10-game victory tour that we’ll be on through December. Then I’ll make a decision at that point.”