It only took a little more than five minutes for the United States women's national team to wrap up victory in the 2015 Women's World Cup final. The other 85 minutes were just a prelude to the celebration.
An all-time great performance by midfielder Carli Lloyd and a ridiculous four-goal barrage by the U.S. put the goal out of opponent Japan's reach within the match's first 20 minutes.
Manager Jill Ellis opted for the exact same 4-2-3-1 lineup that had a strong showing in the 2-0 semifinal win over Germany and that form continued immediately against Japan. In the third minute, Lloyd, the best player for the U.S. in the Cup, put the U.S. up 1-0 after streaming in from the left flank and connecting with a corner kick.
With only one goal, it seemed like the U.S. had good odds of winning the match, considering it had gone 516 minutes without allowing a goal up until that point. The odds got even better in the fifth minute when Lloyd got her second of the match -- this one on a free kick -- and fifth of the Cup.
America wasn't finished yet, though. Lauren Holiday scored an incredible volley on the counterattack in the 14th minute to give the U.S. a 3-0 lead, essentially guaranteeing an American victory less than a sixth of the way through the match.
But the American's high point for the 2015 WWC came in the 16th minute. The U.S. was breaking up the field and Lloyd had the ball at her feet, only a goal away from a hat trick. Soon after crossing midfield, Lloyd looked up to see keeper Ayumi Kaihori off her line. Lloyd launched an audacious attempt which, somehow, found the bottom left corner of the net.
With the goal, Lloyd became the second player in Women's World Cup history to score a hat trick in the final.
Then things started to get iffy for the U.S. again. Something finally fell in favor of Japan in the 27th minute. Yuki Ogimi scored a curling effort from inside the box to make the score 4-1 and end the American defense's shutout streak at 539 minutes, one minute shy of the Women's World Cup record, set by Germany in 2007.
The tides appeared to turn in favor of Japan shortly after halftime when, in the 51st minute, Julie Johnston scored an own goal that brought the score to 4-2.
But the shift in momentum was only temporary. After a scramble in and around the box in the 53rd minute, Tobin Heath connected on a cross to bring the lead back to three goals, 5-2.
Japan did everything in its power to comeback after the early 4-0 outburst, but there was little it could do. Japan made two substitutions in the first half in an attempt to change the team and create some kind of spark. There's an argument to be made that it worked, as Japan rattled off two goals shortly after. However, the four-goal gulf was simply too much to deal with.
With the game wrapped up in the 79th minute, Ellis brought American soccer legend Abby Wambach on so she could see the field in America's first WWC final victory since she joined the USWNT. Wambach came into the match with 14 career WWC goals, second-most all-time. She wasn't able to tie Marta's record of 15, but she did win the Cup in what was likely her final opportunity.
And while Wambach appeared in what amounted to a cameo, Lloyd put in a starring role, one of the greatest performances ever for an American soccer player. Even when she wasn't scoring goals, Lloyd was creating chaos in the midfield and providing chances for her teammates. She was the end-all, be-all of this USWNT. Just like this match should go down as the Carli Lloyd Game, this tournament should go down as the Carli Lloyd World Cup.
The dominant performance by America was the final stage in a full metamorphosis of this team. At the beginning of the Cup, the USWNT looked like a group of talented individuals who struggled to work cohesively and create goals. By the end, it had become one of the greatest soccer teams of all-time, scoring nearly at will thanks playing brilliant, balanced soccer.