It’s less than two days since Carli Lloyd led the USA to a record third Women’s World Cup triumph on the back of her first-half hat-trick in Sunday’s 5-2 win against Japan in Sunday’s final, and Off The Post can’t stop thinking about it. Not the win itself, necessarily -- OTP thoroughly expected revenge to be exacted upon the Japanese for that 2011 heartbreak -- nor even the resounding score-line, really -- although 1-0, or even a shootout win would have sufficed -- but the performance of Lloyd was truly something special in the history of soccer, if not sports in general.
But where, exactly, does it belong?
Before we get to that, let’s refer to the obvious: Lloyd’s epic performance is obviously getting a lot of ink. She will probably remain a trending topic on social media and selected news sites at least until the end of the week, if not the month, as hardcore fans, casual fans, soccer pundits and sports columnists around the world make their sweeping proclamations about where her World Cup final performance belongs in soccer, and indeed, sports history.
OTP has already read several, and selected a few good ones for you. For deft analysis with a grain of salt, Deadspin’s Greg Howard is always a great read. New York Daily News’ veteran sports reporter Mike Lupica makes a compelling case to bring the U.S. women’s trophy parade to New York City -- it's Friday at 11 a.m. down the Canyon of Heroes -- highlighting the fact that Lloyd hails from New Jersey and is a Rutgers University alum. In an opinion piece for the Guardian, sports writer DJ Gallo, whose work has also appeared for several ESPN properties as well as USA Today and Comedy Central, asks whether we’ve witnessed the greatest-ever performance in an American title game.
Of course, you could debate that kind of question forever. OTP is not going to do that here, because, while generally a sports fan, he has no idea how to compare amazing performances in different sports that have completely different rules and ways of quantifying things.
However, in pure soccer terms, you can definitively say a lot of things about Carli Lloyd’s World Cup final performance, starting with a couple of facts: her hat-trick was the earliest ever recorded in World Cup history (both men and women), as it was completed in the 16th minute. It is also the quickest hat-trick in a World Cup final (again, both men and women) at 13 minutes between her first and third goals.
In assessing her performance’s place in soccer history, the timing of the goals is significant because her third -- obviously, the best of the bunch -- and the USA’s fourth effectively killed the game after just 16 minutes. True, there may have been an eternity left to play -- in soccer terms, anyway-- after that, but mentally getting over such a dominating start is nearly impossible, and proved to be so for Japan on Sunday.
Here’s another pretty obvious statement: best performance in a Women’s World Cup final. This one is probably indisputable, as Lloyd is the only player to hit a hat-trick in a Women’s World Cup final. She is also only the second human to hit a hat-trick in a World Cup final -- the other being England’s Geoff Hurst against West Germany in 1966. It should be noted, however, that Hurst hit two of his three goals in extra-time of a much closer game, while Lloyd, by comparison, had already completed her triple -- and effectively won the game for the USA -- long before Hurst had even registered his first.
That fact, coupled with the degree of difficulty on her third goal (more on that later), and you could make the argument that Lloyd’s hat-trick was better than Hurst’s, and therefore, the best hat-trick in a World Cup final. Of course, that doesn’t necessarily make Lloyd’s the best-ever performance in a World Cup final, because, as anyone in this game knows, there’s a lot more to soccer than scoring goals. However, whenever you score three goals in any final, you’ve reserved a place for yourself in history, and deserve to be mentioned among the greats, period
What about best-ever hat-trick at a World Cup? While several players (among them, former USA striker Michele Akers in 1991 and former Russia striker Oleg Salenko in 1994) have scored as many as five goals in a game, no one has ever included a belter over the goalkeeper from 54 yards or whatever that was as Lloyd did with her third goal. In fact, so hard to come by are goals from the halfway line, that OTP can’t think of a single hat-trick in professional soccer history that has included one.
So, given the timing of Lloyd's hat-trick, both in terms of how quickly it helped stun her opponent and the fact this was the World Cup final, and the fact that she topped it off with one of the very hardest skills to pull off in the game, OTP believes that it ranks among the very best, if not the best, in soccer history.