Fara Williams's extra-time penalty ensured England beat Germany for the first time in 31 years to finish third at the Women's World Cup. The performance was the second best by an England team following the 1966 win by the men's side and eclipsed the 1990 men's team, who finished fourth in Italy.
The Lionesses had not beaten two-time World Cup winners Germany in 20 attempts but they more than matched their opponents and won the spot-kick in the second period of extra-time after substitute Lianne Sanderson was brought down by Tabea Kemme. Williams, who is England's record cap holder and was homeless at one point in her England career, beat retiring German goalkeeper Nadine Angerer for her third penalty of the tournament.
It brought to a close a superb campaign for England, who finished as the top European nation and are now set to climb from sixth in the world rankings after a tournament during which they generated strong and well-deserved support at home. However, they were thankful for a glaring miss from Bianca Schmidt four minutes from the end as they held on to their slender lead.
The result was tribute to the progress that England have made under Mark Sampson after the Welshman took over 18 months ago. It also put a positive spin on their campaign after the cruel 2-1 semi-final defeat following Laura Bassett's injury-time own goal against Japan. The team are set to receive an additional £2,000 for winning the bronze medal, taking their World Cup bonus payments to £14,000.
Soccer is a tough sell in America because it's a low-scoring game. So goes the conventional wisdom. Well, wise up, wisdom. Because what happened inside the BC Place Stadium in Vancouver, British Columbia, on Sunday ought to make believers out of even the ultra-apathetic.
This wasn't just the United States vanquishing Japan, the defending Women's World Cup champions. This was soccer, Oprah-cized -- a 5-2 trouncing. "You get a goal! And you get a goal!" This wasn't just redemption for losing to Japan in the 2011 finals.
This wasn't just a World Cup win for the first time in 16 years. This was a win-of-a-kind: No other country has lifted the Women's World Cup three times (1991, 1999 and now, 2015). "It doesn't feel real. We just made history," said Carli Lloyd, the midfielder who set some records of her own.
But before we get to any of that, let's start at the very end. If the lasting image of the 1999 World Cup win is that of Brandi Chastain taking off her shirt and lifting her arms in triumph, the iconic moment of the 2015 may be this: Forward Abby Wambach rushing to the stands after the game and kissing her wife, Sarah Huffman, as the crowd of 53,341 awwed.
Lloyd was on a mission. With all the buzz centering on Wambach, Alex Morgan and Sydney Leroux, Lloyd had been an afterthought going into the tournament. Now, folks are joking her picture should be placed on the $10 bill, which is due for a makeover in 2020.
Carli Lloyd looked out over the cheering mob of U.S. women's national team fans and raised an arm in triumph. "It feels great to wake up as a world champion, and that feeling won't ever get old," Lloyd said. The home celebrations got underway for the World Cup winners on Tuesday. The Americans were welcomed to downtown Los Angeles by an estimated crowd of 10,000 cheering fans at a rally in the first stop on a victory tour.
The first stateside appearance was a raucous party in front of fans who began camping out before dawn on short notice. Abby Wambach joyously lifted the World Cup trophy while the players led the crowd in chants of "I Believe That We Just Won!" Lloyd's hat trick in the final propelled the U.S. women to their record third World Cup title, routing Japan 5-2 on Sunday in Vancouver. The Americans hadn't won soccer's biggest prize since 1999, but Lloyd believes this team has done something comparably groundbreaking.
"I know in '99 it was a huge turning point for women's soccer, (but) I think we have just crushed history right now," said Lloyd, who scored six goals in the tournament. "With the amount of coverage, with social media, with everything else that's been going on, I think there was no greater time to win a World Cup than now. ... It's an unbelievable moment. It's something that's going to last for years."
The Los Angeles crowd was packed with boys and girls introduced to soccer by the tournament. Hundreds wore their favorite players' shirts, while signs in the crowd included "Party Like It's '99," ''Long Live the Queens," and "Equal Pay 4 (Female) Athletes."
The hottest ticket in pro sports may now be WOMEN'S SOCCER -- with every team in the National Women's Soccer League reporting a BOOM in sales post-World Cup ... TMZ Sports has learned. With stars like Carli Lloyd, Tobin Heath, Alex Morgan and others returning to their teams in the NWSL .... reps for just about every team tell us people are buying tickets like CRAZY!!
In fact, a rep for the Portland Thorns FC (home of Alex Morgan and Tobin Heath) tell us they've already sold 16,000 TICKETS for the next home game ... which isn't until July 22nd! FYI -- Portland averages roughly 13,769 fans per game ... but the fact so many tickets have sold this far in advance is unprecedented. There's more ... a rep for the Seattle Reign FC (home of Hope Solo) says they've also received a "tremendous surge" in ticket sales, app downloads and merchandise sales. "We're expecting the game this Sunday to be close to a sell out ... and the next game as well.
Karen Carney could be forgiven for not being overly excited about ending the day at Wimbledon - she was, after all, once a ball girl there. It may have been women's semi-final day. It may even have been a day with her tight-knit team-mates but Carney found a way to make a memorable outing even more so.
Her selfie from a distance with former England captain David Beckham raised a smile but being the competitive, driven sportswoman she is, Carney wanted more. And she got it.
The Lionesses were about to live the day of dreams but maybe the early pick-up was the stuff of nightmares. Or perhaps the stresses and strains of being the nation's new favourite sports team are taking their toll.
Tracksuits and trainers for a royal engagement? You wouldn't catch David Beckham in his casuals. "We met the Prince just before we went to the World Cup and seeing him again was almost like catching up with an old friend," explained striker Eniola Aluko.
The World Cup was played on artificial turf in Canada, but the team found themselves on the sun-scorched lawns of Kensington Palace where they played some games with pupils from Essendine School and Jubilee School.
Days after uniting a nation with their 5-2 triumph over Japan in the 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup final, the entire United States women's soccer team was given a celebration worthy of their accomplishments through the streets of New York City.
It was a day of joy for all involved, from the athletes and coaches down to the fans, though there is a hint of melancholy at knowing this team with these women will never lace up their cleats together in another Women's World Cup.
Social media captured all of the best moments from Friday's celebration, allowing us to build one final tribute to Team USA before they ride off into the sunset.
It seems only fitting to start with a clip from the parade, via Fox Sports 1, with a story that Julie Johnston shared with the television announcers about the widespread reach Team USA had during this run:
This has been a great stretch for female athletics in America, starting with the U.S. victory on July 5. Serena Williams is continuing that run with another appearance in the Wimbledon final set to take place on Saturday.