Somehow it has been almost four years since the last Women’s World Cup match was played but I can still vividly remember every moment of that day. I was getting ready to watch the USA women’s national soccer team play in the final against Japan as we looked for revenge from the loss in the 2011 final.
It did not take long for all those nerves to turn in to hugs, chants and spilled beverages among hundreds of soccer fans in red, white and blue at the Black Warrior Brewing Company in Tuscaloosa. Carli Lloyd found a way to score in the first three minutes of the match, the fastest goal in a Women’s World Cup final, to put the U.S. ahead 1-0.
Lloyd did not stop there and neither did the party. Two minutes later, Lloyd got on the end of a free kick from Lauren Holiday to make it 2-0, sending the fans into even more mayhem.
Holiday added a goal to her assist in the 14th minute, which was enough to put the game away as the U.S. had one hand on the trophy already. However, it was just two minutes later when we realized how special of a day it was.
Lloyd received a pass in her own half before pushing the ball around a defender to seemingly start a counter attack. But the next part is what stands out the most and will still give me chills whenever I watch the video.
With no intention of starting a counter attack, Lloyd poked the ball around the defender at half field and launched her next touch toward the goal. With the magic of that day, you knew it was going to find the back of the net.
Lloyd put the ball over the keeper’s head and off the left post before rolling into the back of the net to put the U.S. up 4-0 in the 16th minute. It is the quickest hat trick in Women’s World Cup history and I expect that mark to hold for a long time.
The U.S. finished off Japan and won the match 5-2, winning the third World Cup title in team history. Now, the Americans enter the 2019 Women’s World Cup as the favorites and it all gets started this Friday when France plays South Korea in the opening match.
France is the host of the event and could be the biggest competition for the U.S. to repeat as world champions. It would make for a great final but unfortunately for both teams, the two may have to face each other sooner than expected.
There are no guarantees at a World Cup but both the U.S. and France are heavy favorites to win their group and advance to the knockout stage. If that happens, the two teams would need just one win each before meeting in the quarterfinals in Paris.
The U.S. team does not get started until Tuesday with an opening match against Thailand. Of course, Lloyd will be back on the squad but there are many other stars to fall in love with like Alex Morgan, Tobin Heath, Lindsey Horan, Mallory Pugh — OK, I should stop before I name the whole squad.
While the U.S. and France will get most of the attention early in the tournament, teams such as Germany and England could make plenty of noise. Germany boasts one of the most experienced squads in the tournament and enters as the second-ranked team in the world by FIFA.
England is ranked third in the world and has won eight of its last 10 matches while allowing one goal or fewer in 11 of its last 12 matches. England should ease into the knockout stage but a group match against Japan can make a big difference in the draw during the knockout round for either team.
If you’re looking for even more reasons to watch a team other than the U.S., keep an eye on the schedule for Spain. Former Alabama player Celia Jiminez is expected to play a key role for her country as a part of a very young Spanish squad.
I could list even more reasons why you should watch every match you can of this event but no words can match what the experience is like. If you don’t want to go out and watch a match, try one from the couch at home but still put on those stars and stripes and turn the volume all the way up to get the feel of it.
However, if you are up for a midday adventure, find your local American Outlaws chapter (the closest for Elmore County is in Montgomery) and join a few strangers in cheering on the U.S. You know that is where you will find me on matchday.