By John Irish
PARIS (Reuters) – Veteran striker Carli Lloyd scored twice as the United States beat Chile 3-0 on Sunday, sending the current holders into the last 16 at the Women’s World Cup despite some remarkable resistance from the opposition goalkeeper Christiane Endler.
Lloyd, one of the biggest names in the women’s game, became the first player to score in six consecutive World Cup matches but missed out on a hat-trick when she put a late penalty wide.
Yet Chilean keeper Endler, on her home Parc des Princes ground, was the player of the match, earning all the plaudits after pulling off several stunning saves to keep the score down.
“Endler was fantastic, spectacular,” USA coach Jill Ellis told a news conference. “She is one of best shot stoppers we’ve ever seen. That goalkeeper will keep that team in the mix and it’s a wonderful statement about the level of goalkeeping.”
The United States will next play Sweden to decide top spot in group F after the Scandinavian side had earlier booked their place in the knockout stages, also with a maximum six points, by beating Thailand 5-1.
The U.S., coming off a record 13-0 win over Thailand in their opener, still lead the group on goal difference, having quickly improved their tally when Lloyd smashed home the first of their three first-half goals with an 11th minute half-volley.
It followed an early onslaught that had already seen the U.S. miss several clear-cut chances, including Lloyd hitting the post from close range with Paris St Germain’s Endler then reacting quickest to deny the U.S. striker from the rebound.
U.S. midfielder Julie Ertz doubled the score on 26 minutes, flicking in a header from a corner and Lloyd, captain for the day, then powered home from another corner nine minutes later after easily losing her marker.
That took the 36-year-old Lloyd’s tally in the tournament to three, and 10 overall in World Cups.
A three-time Olympian and only the second player, man or woman, to score a hat-trick in a World Cup final when the U.S won in 2015, Lloyd came off the bench against Thailand to score their 13th goal and could now be challenging for a starting spot.
“The fact that she’s now scored three goals, I don’t think she could be in a better spot (to start). I also know she’s ready to do whatever she needs to for the team,” Ellis said.
The U.S. coach changed seven outfield players from the first game giving the squad a good rest ahead of the table-topping decider with Sweden on June 20.
The champions began the second-half in the same attacking vein but Endler made a string of saves, including acrobatically tipping over a Christen Press volley and then clawing away a point-blank header from the same player minutes later.
“It’s a mix of feelings, but I’m satisfied to have played like this, especially here, at this stadium that’s my home,” Endler told reporters.
“The football world powers have years of advantage compared to us in the development and support of women’s football.
“This must be the beginning of something bigger and more important so more girls can dedicate themselves to the game professionally.”
Lloyd almost had her hat-trick on 72 minutes, looping a header over Endler, but watched in despair as it bounced back off the bar.
She then had a golden chance to seal her hat-trick in the 81st minute after a pitchside VAR review saw a penalty awarded following a tug in the box, but she skewed it wide.
(Reporting by John Irish; Editing by Ian Chadband)