United States wins third Women’s World Cup title, beats Japan on record-smashing day

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VANCOUVER, British Columbia – Under a thick haze and the smell of smoke from a blazing forest in the distance, Carli Lloyd caught fire on Sunday at BC Place.

Lloyd scored a hat trick in the first 16 minutes of the Women’s World Cup final to lift the United States past Japan, 5-2 and deliver a record third World Cup title. Lloyd scored her third goal from midfield, driving the ball over Japan goalkeeper Ayumi Kaihori.

“It’s a surreal moment,” Lloyd said. “It’s been amazing. We just wrote history today and brought this World Cup trophy home, which is unbelievable.”

[MORE: Lloyd proves the hero again |  Wambach finally gets her World Cup]

Japan entered the match as reigning World Cup champions, having beaten the United States in penalty kicks in the 2011 World Cup final.

The World Cup title is the United States’ first since 1999. They are also three-time defending Olympic champions, having beaten Japan in the 2012 Olympic final in London. Lloyd scored twice in that final to beat Japan as well.

“Ms. Lloyd, well she always does this to us,” Japan head coach Norio Sasaki said after the game, dropping his head and smiling.

For two teams that entered Sunday’s final on the backs of defensive performances, the United States and Japan (but mostly the Americans – and even more specifically, Lloyd) combined to smash offensive records.

Lloyd became the first player in history to score a hat trick in a Women’s World Cup final; Michelle Akers is the only other player to net a multi-goal game in a final, scoring twice in 1991. Lloyd’s goal in the 3rd minutes was the fastest ever scored in a final. Lloyd also became the first American player to score in four straight World Cup games.

MORE: Watch Carli Lloyd’s amazing first-half hat trick

The seven combined goals is the most in a Women’s World Cup final, and the United States’s five goals is a record for one team.

In the 3rd minute, Lloyd beat Japan defender Azusa Iwashimizu to the ball on Megan Rapinoe’s corner kick, and two minutes later Lloyd beat Iwashimizu again for her second goal. After mis-heading the ball up in the air just prior to the United States’ third goal – scored by Lauren Holiday – Iwashimizu was replaced in the 33rd minute by Homare Sawa, playing in her co-record sixth World Cup.

Japan managed to get a goal back before halftime through Yuki Ogimi, and a second goal just after halftime off the head of U.S. defender Julie Johnston.

But two minutes after that second Japan goal, U.S. midfielder Tobin Heath score the United States’ fifth goal, icing the match.

The United States finished the tournament unbeaten, winning all but one game – a scoreless draw against Sweden in the group stage.

A rough start in the opening minutes of the World Cup against Australia – when Hope Solo made two tournament changing saves and Megan Rapinoe scored her first of two goals early against the run of play – feels like a memory of year’s past. After the tie with Sweden, the Americans scraped past Nigeria to win Group D and then narrowly defeated 10-player Colombia in the round of 16 before coming into their own in the quarterfinal against China.

In that match, Ellis inserted Morgan Brian and allowed Lloyd to push higher up the field, a move that truly paid dividends in the semifinal against Germany, which the United States dominated.

Building off of those successes, U.S. coach Jill Ellis stuck with the same starting XI from the semifinal in Sunday’s final against Japan, freeing up Lloyd to sit behind Morgan and do what she does best: Push forward and score goals.

U.S. forward Abby Wambach played in her final World Cup match, entering the game in the 79th minute for Tobin Heath. It was also the final World Cup match for Sawa.

Sweden players, coaches left fuming after last-minute loss

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SOCHI, Russia (AP) — A last-minute goal. A non-called penalty. A disrespectful celebration.

Sweden had a lot to be upset about when the final whistle blew on Saturday.

[ MORE: Low: Germany survived “a thriller full of emotion” ]

The Swedes were within seconds of holding defending champion Germany to a draw, and moving into good position to advance to the round of 16 at the World Cup, when Toni Kroos scored deep into stoppage time to give Germany a 2-1 come-from-behind victory.

“I’m sorry that we didn’t get at least one point,” Sweden coach Janne Andersson said. “But I’m not blaming anyone tactically or analyzing too much right now, there are so many emotions going around. This is probably the heaviest conclusion that I’ve experienced in my career.”

Kroos’ goal from a set piece came in the fifth and final minute of injury time. The draw would have kept Sweden ahead of Germany in Group F and needing only a draw against Mexico in the last match.

[ MORE: Germany snatches late win over Sweden to avoid elimination ]

“It was just bad luck,” Sweden forward John Guidetti said. “Now we need to try to find a way to win the last match. In a few days we play again and we have to win it. It’s simple.”

Germany, which is tied with Sweden on points and goal difference, will play against South Korea in the final round.

“We still have an excellent opportunity to qualify,” Andersson said. “Now we have to clean up, tidy up after this game. We’re going to do that.”

The Swedes were leading Germany at halftime thanks to Ola Toivonen’s goal in the 32nd minute at Fisht Stadium. They felt they could have been ahead even earlier if the referee had called a penalty when Marcus Berg appeared to be fouled inside the area with a clear chance to score. There was no formal video review called for.

“If we have the (VAR) system, it’s very unfortunate that he (the referee) can feel so secure in the moment that he doesn’t go and have a look at the situation,” Andersson said.

He and the Swedish players said they also couldn’t understand why Germany decided to celebrate near their bench.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

“You shouldn’t celebrate in front of our bench the way they did, that’s disrespectful,” Guidetti said. “You can celebrate with your own fans. Don’t celebrate in front of our bench like that. That’s why they apologized, because they knew they did something wrong.”

Andersson said he was “very annoyed” by seeing the Germany team “running in our direction and rubbing it in our faces by making gestures.”

“We fought hard for 95 minutes,” he said. “And when the final whistle blows, you shake hands.”

WATCH: World Cup, Day 11 — England, Colombia back in action

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Day 11 of the 2018 World Cup is up next, on Sunday, with England back in action and in need of three points — and a resounding win — to keep pace with Belgium in Group G.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

Following Belgium’s 5-2 thrashing of Tunisia — the same side that England beat in stoppage time earlier in the week — on Saturday, the Red Devils have positioned themselves perfectly to win the group with a draw against the Three Lions on Thursday. England need a five-goal victory at 6-1 or higher to the finish top of the group following a draw on the final day.

Then, it’s a pair of Group H fixtures, kicked off with Japan (1st) versus Senegal (2nd) — both of whom won their first game — followed by Poland (3rd) versus Colombia (4th).

Below is Sunday’s schedule in full.

Click here for live and on demand coverage of the World Cup online and via the NBC Sports App.


2018 World Cup schedule – Sunday, June 24

Group G
England vs. Panama: Nizhny Novgorod, 8 a.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE

Group H
Japan vs. Senegal: Yekaterinburg, 11 a.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE
Poland vs. Colombia: Kazan, 2 p.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE

FIFA opens case against Xhaka, Shaqiri for celebrations

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FIFA’s disciplinary committee opened disciplinary proceedings against Swiss players Granit Xhaka and Xherdan Shaqiri for politically charged goal celebrations during their 2-1 World Cup win over Serbia in Kaliningrad.

[ MORE: The meaning behind Xhaka, Shaqiri’s eagle celebration ]

FIFA also said Saturday it has opened disciplinary proceedings against the Serbian Football Association for crowd disturbance and the display of political and offensive messages by Serbian fans. FIFA also is reviewing statements that Serbia coach Mladen Krstajic made after the match.

Xhaka and Shaqiri celebrated their goals by making a nationalist symbol of their ethnic Albanian heritage. Both of their families come from Kosovo, the former Serbian province that declared independence in 2008. Serbia doesn’t recognize Kosovo’s independence and relations between the two countries remain tense.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

The Polish Football Association was fined $10,100 and given a warning by FIFA’s disciplinary committee for a banner that the governing body deemed political and offensive. The banner was displayed during Senegal’s 2-1 win over Poland on Tuesday in Moscow.

The committee also opened disciplinary proceedings against the federations of Argentina and Croatia for crowd disturbances during Croatia’s 3-0 win Thursday at Nizhny Novgorod.

Low: Germany survived “a thriller full of emotion”

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At 1-0 down, they were headed for elimination in the group stage (with a game still to play); once level at 1-1, they faced yet a steep hill to climb on the final day of the group stage; after Toni Kroos scored his stunning 94th-minute winner, Joachim Low could finally exhale and imagine himself managing the German national team for another day.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

Saturday’s 2-1 victory over Sweden at the 2018 World Cup was, for most intents and purposes, a worrying performance for the defending world champions. Fortunately for Low and Co., the one place in which their comeback dramatic victory was a raging success is the only one that matters: the Group F table, where Die Mannschaft currently (somehow) sit second and control their own destiny — quotes from the BBC:

“This was a thriller, full of emotion, right up until the final whistle. Brandt hit the goal post just three minutes before the end too. We took out a defensive player and brought on an attacking player because we knew had to bring on everything we had to turn it round.

“We had a couple of great chances — Mario Gomez’s header being one of them. The last couple of minutes were full of drama but those matches exist in football. We’ve had these situations in other tournaments as well. For the viewers that’s part of the attractiveness of football.”

“Something I did appreciate today was that we didn’t lose our nerve, we didn’t panic after going a goal down. We kept a level head and said we needed to make quick passes and tire the Swedes out to open up spaces.

“We didn’t score a couple of good chances but we never lost hope we could win the match and I think the goal scored in stoppage time had a bit of luck involved but it did show the belief we had in ourselves.”

There’s still plenty of work to do for one of the most popular pre-tournament favorites — there’s a little matter of needing to beat, or at the very least, match Sweden’s result against Mexico — but that can wait until tomorrow, because Saturday unexpectedly became all about survival.