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U.S. defeats Japan, 5-2, wins World Cup

In a remarkable contest, the U.S. defeated Japan, 5-2, to win its first World Cup since 1999. It was sweet revenge for the USWNT, which lost Japan in the 2011 final on penalty kicks, and Abby Wambach was able to cap her career with the one major title that had eluded her.

[With historic outburst, U.S. beats Japan for Women’s World Cup title]

Carli Lloyd notched a hat trick just 16 minutes into the game, and her final goal — an eye-popping strike from midfield — actually gave the U.S. a 4-0 lead, because Lauren Holiday had added her own tally in the 14th minute. Japan fight back and made the score 4-2 shortly into the second half, but Tobin Heath iced things with a goal in the 54th minute, giving U.S. Coach Jill Ellis plenty of time to think about who to send into the game, and when, in order to properly savor the victory.

Final match statistics from FIFA had Japan with an edge in possession percentage, 52-48, plus free kicks, 15-12, but there was no doubt which was the better side. The U.S. jumped all over the defending champs, winding up with advantages in shots (15-12), on-target shots (7-4) and corners (7-3).

The U.S. became the first team to win three women’s World Cups. Hope Solo won the tournament’s Golden Glove award for her stellar goalkeeping efforts, and Carli Lloyd won the Golden Ball after tying Germany’s Celia Sacic for the overall lead in goals at six, with all six coming in the knockout rounds, three in the final. Lloyd became the first American to win the Golden Ball since Carin Jennings in 1991, the inaugural year of the tournament.

86th minute: Alex Morgan was replaced by 40-year-old Christie Rampone, who is being given a chance to revel in the moment as the oldest player in tournament history. Rampone is the last active link to the 1999 U.S. squad — the last to bring this country a World Cup title.

U.S. overtakes Germany for highest-scoring team in women’s World Cup history.

79th minute: Abby Wambach came on, replacing Tobin Heath and accepting the captain’s arm band. The 50,000-plus fans cheering for the U.S. at B.C. Place went wild, recognizing the moment for the U.S.’s all-time scorer, among men or women, who is just a few minutes away from winning her first World Cup.

73rd minute: There’s no quit in the Japanese side. There’s plenty of desperation, of course, and the defending World Cup champs are starting to come at the U.S. net in waves. Defender Saori Ariyoshi had the ball on her foot in the penalty area with some space, but she shot it too high. Hope Solo was forced to make a save right on her goal line in the 75th minute.

If it seems like there’s been a lot of scoring, that’s because there has

60th minute: Megan Rapinoe was replaced by Kelley O’Hara, leaving the field to a thunderous ovation on her 30th birthday. O’Hara scored a crucial goal in the semifinal win over Germany but will be counted on at least as much for her defensive prowess. Moments earlier, Japan had used its third and final substitution, replacing forward Shinobu Ohno with forward Mana Iwabuchi.

54th minute: This is simply dizzying. Japan barely had time to think about how it was just two goals down before Tobin Heath scored for the U.S., giving it another 3-goal lead.

52nd minute: Was someone saying that the U.S. had come out strong? Japan just cut the lead to 4-2, albeit on an own goal off the head of Julie Johnston that Hope Solo was unable to keep out of the net.

49th minute: The U.S. has come out strong in second half. Not content to sit on a 4-1 lead, and perhaps wary of a desperate Japan squad coming out of the locker room, the USWNT has taken the fight to its opponents. Ali Krieger had a dangerous-looking opportunity blocked in the penalty area, and moments later, Morgan Brian forced the Japanese goalie to make a tough save.

Just Joe Biden hanging out with Pele

Here’s a guess that the U.S. Vice President has been enjoying this match at least as much as the Brazilian soccer legend.

U.S. goes into halftime with 4-1 lead

Well, that was simply bonkers. The U.S. got off to as good a start as any soccer team in any match at any level could possibly hope to do, grabbing a 4-0 lead, one capped by Carli Lloyd’s outrageous strike from midfield to complete a very fast hat trick.

A stunned Japan — which had allowed three goals total in its six previous matches, all wins — finally started to get its act together in the last 20 minutes or so of the half, possessing the ball much better and getting a goal to cut the lead to 4-1. The U.S. is still in a commanding position, of course, but it will want to reassert itself coming out of the locker room to ensure its hold on this championship match.

According to FIFA, Japan actually managed to come away with edge in possession percentage, 51-49, but the U.S. leads in shots (9-3), on-target shots (5-3), corners (3-0). It also leads in fouls committed (7-3), giving Japan an 8-3 margin in free kicks.

39th minute: Another first-half substitution for the Japanese, as Coach Norio Sasaki recognizes the gravity of the situation. This time, 24-year-old forward Yuiko Sugisawa replaced  midfielder Nahomi Kawsumi.

33rd minute: Early substitution by Japan. Thirty-six-year-old midfielder Homare Sawa comes on in place of defender Azusa Iwashimizu, who had been struggling badly.

The U.S. was seconds away from setting a World Cup record for longest scoreless streak by a team

27th minute: The epic shutout streak by Hope Solo and the U.S. defense is over. Forward Yuki Ogimi turned nicely on a ball in the penalty area and sent it past Solo. It was the first goal allowed by the USWNT since the first half of the first game of the World Cup, and one desperately needed by Japan.

Get to know Carli Lloyd better!

Post soccer writer Steven Goff profiled the newest U.S. superstar just a few days ago. Quick, read it, before she scores again!

16th minute: This is proving impossible to keep up with, leading to that rare two-goal entry. The more recent was Carli Lloyd’s third of the game, which, let’s all remember, is still in its infancy. She completed the hat trick by sending a marvelous ball all the way from midfield, catching Japan goalie Ayumi Kaihori off her line and unable to keep it out of the net.

14th minute: Lauren Holiday gave the U.S. a 3-0 lead with a deft volley inside the penalty area.

Carli Lloyd’s early flurry the quickest in women’s World Cup history.

5th minute: Carli Lloyd strikes again, off of another set piece, and suddenly, Japan is in a world of trouble. Of course, the Japanese can console themselves with the fact that they have plenty of time to mount a comeback, but they may need to take many more chances than the well-organized side is used to doing.

3rd minute: Early goal for the U.S.! Carli Lloyd strikes off of a corner kick, running onto a ball sent into the middle of the penalty area on a beautiful set piece. This is the first time Japan has trailed in the World Cup.

6:56 p.m.: The Hoff is on board! (FYI, posts will get more serious in just a few minutes.)

6:42 p.m.: Watch Abby Wambach talk about what this means for her. The veteran forward could be playing in her last major international event. She tells Fox Sports, with emotion, “I have had the best life.”

6:36 p.m.: Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is fired up! And this was from a few hours ago. He must feel like tossing some jabroni though a table by now.

6:27 p.m.: What kind of ratings will this championship game get?

Whatever the number turns out to be, it will almost certainly be impressive. From the Wall Street Journal:

“Fox and Fox Sports 1 have averaged 5.3 million viewers, 121% higher than the 2011 tournament average through the semifinals, and 33% higher than TNT’s average for its NBA playoff coverage. The win over Germany attracted 8.4 million viewers, the most ever for a women’s soccer match that wasn’t a final.”

5:57 p.m.: The Japanese starting 11, per FIFA:

5:52 p.m.: The Post’s Steven Goff, covering the game at BC Place, has the Americans’ starting lineup:

Game and broadcast info

United States vs. Japan

Where: BC Place (capacity 54,500) in Vancouver, B.C.

When: 7 p.m. Eastern time

TV and Web broadcasters: Fox, Telemundo, NBCDeportes.com, Fox Sports Go, FoxSoccer2Go.com

FIFA rankings: United States, No. 2; Japan, No. 4

How they advanced:

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Standings and scores from the group stage

Pre-match coverage

History of the U.S. in the Women’s World Cup

Revisit all six previous editions of the tournament, from a dominant run in China to the inaugural title to a heart-stopping finish in Germany. (Read more)

Entering rematch, the heartbreak lingers for Wambach

The all-time leading goal-scorer in international competition, in her final match, has the opportunity to redeeem the most painful loss of her career, the 2011 World Cup final vs. Japan. (Read more)

 A hard-won tradition is on the line for U.S. players

The Americans want to win for outgoing star Abby Wambach, but also to uphold the great tradition of the natonal program, writes Jerry Brewer. (Read more)

News and notes from Vancouver before the final

Fancy Stats analysis: Defense will fuel U.S. win over Japan for title

Women’s soccer is no longer a game of ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’

Lloyd’s scoring touch sparked Americans into World Cup final

Fancy Stats: U.S. thrives by living in the ‘danger zone’

How the U.S. got here

Follow the Americans’ path to the final with coverage by The Post’s Steven Goff:

Semifinals: U.S. 2, Germany 0

Facing the world’s top-ranked team, the Americans gave their best performance of the tournament to that point,  earning their fifth consecutive shutout. (Read more)

Quarterfinals: U.S. 1, China 0

Missing two starters because of suspension, the U.S. got a boost of confidence by topping the Chinese. (Read more)

Round of 16: U.S. 2,, Colombia 0

Abby Wambach’s missed penalty kick was the latest example of the team’s struggles, but two second-half goals against a short-handed foe are enough. (Read more)

Group play: U.S. 1, Nigeria 0

Wambach’s goal just before halftime clinched first place in Group D. (Read more)

Group play: U.S. 0, Sweden 0

A goal-line clearance on a header by 5-foot-2 Meghan Klingenberg helps the U.S. espcape with a point. (Read more)

Group play: U.S. 3, Australia 1

A sometimes uneven road to the final was foreshadowed by a dodgy first half vs. the Australians. (Read more)