VETERAN Carli Lloyd became the first player to score in six consecutive women’s World Cup matches as a much-changed USA side eased to a 3-0 win over Chile on Sunday to secure their passage to the last 16.
That the winning margin was nowhere near their record-breaking 13-0 hammering of Thailand in their opening game was largely down to the heroics of Chile’s brilliant goalkeeper Christiane Endler, but this was still a one-sided victory for the holders in Paris.
Lloyd came into the starting line-up in one of seven changes and netted twice in the first half either side of a Julie Ertz goal, as the USA joined Sweden in qualifying from Group F.
“This is the best version of me in my career. Whether you put me up top or in the midfield, I can do it,” said 36-year-old Lloyd, whose goals at the Parc des Princes saw her overtake the mark of Birgit Prinz, the German who netted in five consecutive matches at the 2003 World Cup.
“Unfortunately only 11 players play on the field and the coaches have to make decisions, but there is no doubt in my mind that I am just going to stay ready, stay focused, because you never know what can happen.”
Hat-trick hero in the 2015 final, Lloyd squandered the chance to get a third goal in this game at the Parc des Princes as she missed a late penalty.
“I think the important thing for us is that players are ready to do any role and the fact she has now scored three goals is awesome,” said coach Jill Elis, who has now given minutes to all the outfield players in her squad.
“She was fantastic, ready, energised. I don’t think she could be in a better spot.”
A draw when they face the Swedes in Le Havre on Thursday will see the USA advance in first place, which increases the chances of a heavyweight quarter-final showdown back in Paris with France.
Among those to drop out of the side were Alex Morgan, scorer of five goals against Thailand, and Megan Rapinoe, but the USA still put on a show to delight their fans, who made up the majority of the 45,594 crowd.
Lloyd had hit the post before she opened the scoring in the 11th minute, volleying home on her left foot after a headed clearance by Su Helen Gaez fell to her.
The second goal came in the 26th minute as Ertz met a corner from the right with a near-post header which Endler got a touch to but could not keep out.
The third soon followed, with another right-wing corner, by Tierna Davidson, being headed home emphatically by Lloyd for her 113th international goal on her 276th appearance.
Morgan and Rapinoe remained on the bench as the USA pushed for more in the second half only to be denied time and time again by the brilliant Endler, who Ellis called “world class” and “one of the best shot-stoppers I have ever seen”.
The Paris Saint-Germain keeper notably saved from Lindsey Horan and then topped that with a stop from a stunning Christen Press volley. Her save from a Press header was the best of the lot.
“It is difficult. On the one hand we lost, on the other hand I am satisfied with the way I played,” said Endler.
Substitute Jessica McDonald curled a shot off the post and a looping header by Lloyd hit the bar.
Perhaps unsettled by the quality of Endler, Lloyd sent her penalty wide in the 81st minute after a Yessenia Huenteo foul on Allie Long was spotted by the VAR.
Chile are ranked 39th in the world, five places beneath Thailand, but with a goalkeeper as good as Endler, they will be confident of beating the Thais in their last group outing.