Story by Joe Rodewald

After 16 long, painful years, the United States Women’s National Team can call themselves World Cup champions again with a 5-2 victory over Japan on Sunday.

The championship marks America’s third title – the most of any country – and first since 1999, the other coming in the inaugural Women’s World Cup in 1991.

The U.S. advanced from the group stage with seven points following a 2-0-1 record. In the second stage, otherwise know as the knockout stage, the U.S. Women defeated Columbia and China en route to the semifinals. From there, a win over top-ranked Germany vaulted the Americans one step closer to the ultimate goal.

A familiar foe in Japan was now the final obstacle the U.S. needed to clear to be crowned champions.

In 2011, the Americans were three minutes away from winning the World Cup. A late Japan rally spoiled their dreams of becoming champions with a defeat in penalty kicks.

2015, however, was a different story. Seeking revenge, the U.S. Women were much better than Japan on Sunday.

The U.S. started hot, netting four goals in the first 16 minutes to take a commanding lead. 77 minutes later, the U.S. defeated Japan 5-2 and avenged the loss from 2011.

It was a remarkable run for the team as a whole, but perhaps even more special for some individual players.

Christie Rampone and U.S. soccer legend Abby Wambach will both have storybook endings to their soccer careers, leaving on top of FIFA’s biggest stage. Rompone won her second World Cup, as the 40-year-old also was a part of the 1999 World Cup team. For Wambach, the world record holder for international goals, the first World Cup victory is simply a cherry on top of an illustrious career.

Carli Lloyd’s on-field performance was outstanding. The midfielder scored six goals in four games, including a record-setting three goals in the final. Lloyd also set the record for the quickest goal in a World Cup Final, scoring just three minutes into the match. The Golden Ball winner—awarded to the tournament’s top player—completed her hat trick just 16 minutes into the final match. Lloyd was also given Player of the Match awards four times throughout the tournament.

Hope Solo was awarded the Golden Glove trophy, given to the tournament’s best goalkeeper. Solo was rock solid in the net, allowing only three goals in seven games, including five shutouts. Solo set a World Cup record, going 540 minutes of gameplay without conceding a goal. Solo also posted a 90 percent save percentage for the tournament, the top percentage amongst all goalkeepers.

Without the exceptional performances by Lloyd and Solo, the U.S. might still be chasing the World Cup, a trophy that had evaded them for so long.

The World Cup is back in America’s hands. And with many players returning, FIFA’s soon-to-be No. 1 could be a force in the 2019 Women’s World Cup.

Joe Rodewald is a sophomore Math Education major. Follow him on Twitter @joerodewald7.

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