Women's World Cup offers hope amid FIFA crisis

Mon Jul 6, 2015 2:06am EDT
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By Steve Keating

VANCOUVER (Reuters) - A World Cup that kicked off amidst one of the biggest scandals in soccer history ended in joyous celebration on Sunday as the United States defeated Japan 5-2 in a free-wheeling clash that offered some hope of better days ahead for the so-called Beautiful Game.

The troubles that have rocked the sport's governing body FIFA for more than a month seemed a world away as golden confetti rained down on a capacity crowd of over 53,000 at BC Place following an entertaining contest that showcased the good in a sport some had started to believe was rotten to the core.

The U.S. returned to the pinnacle of women's soccer with a dominating display to cap a riveting tournament that pushed the sport into new territory.

The Americans last triumphed in 1999 but women's soccer is a vastly different game than it was a decade-and-a-half ago with new nations forging their way into the elite and triggering unprecedented global interest in the tournament.

Despite corruption scandals swirling around FIFA and a lawsuit filed by leading players against organizers for being forced to play on artificial turf, the tournament ended in triumphant fashion, smashing worldwide television ratings and attracting an eye-popping total attendance of 1.35 million spectators.

Since the World Cup began on June 6 in Edmonton, the tournament had been waiting for the arrival of a star and on the final game she finally arrived, American captain Carli Lloyd grabbing the spotlight with an stunning three-goal masterclass that laid the foundation for the U.S. victory.

As Golden Ball winner Lloyd demonstrated with her astonishing 13 minute hat-trick, that included a goal from the half-way line, the women's game is delivering a level of excitement and quality beyond previous standards.

"We always say that every women's World Cup is special and another milestone in the development of women's soccer and I truly believe that this seventh edition of FIFA women's World Cup Canada has made history in many ways," said Tatjana Haenni, the FIFA deputy director of the competitions division and head of women’s soccer.   Continued...

Jul 5, 2015; Vancouver, British Columbia, CAN; United States forward Abby Wambach (20) and United States defender Christie Rampone (3) hoist the trophy after defeating Japan in the final of the FIFA 2015 Women's World Cup at BC Place Stadium. Michael Chow-USA TODAY Sports