The 15 most memorable moments of the Women's World Cup

by
Reuters

Debates about the artificial playing surface. Anger over FIFA's blatant fixing of the bracket that led to the best teams playing each other early in the knockout stages. Hilarious, almost incomprehensible refereeing errors.

The 2015 Women's World Cup had its issues. It also had more than its share of brilliant moments that reminded us all why we continue to tune in and show up to support our favorite teams. Moments that leave us in awe. Moments that leave a tear rolling down our cheek. The last month in Canada has run the emotional gamut for supporters everywhere, delivering a host of individual events that won't soon be forgotten.

Here are the 15 moments that made this tournament what it was ...

Christine Sinclair allows a nation to exhale

The fans were long beyond the point of nerves. The energy that greeted the opening whistle of the tournament, and the excitement over the host nation's chances on the pitch, were waning after 90 minutes of dour goalless action against China. Christine Sinclair, calmly slotting home a penalty in the 92nd minute to secure a 1-0 win, renewed that enthusiasm.

Celia Sasic scores fastest hat-trick in tournament history

They were playing a vastly inferior Ivory Coast side, sure, but that shouldn't detract from Celia Sasic's accomplishment, as the German striker needed just 31 minutes to record the fastest hat-trick in tournament history.

Megan Rapinoe being a boss against Australia

Where would the United States be without Megan Rapinoe? It's a frightening thought. The fan favourite put the U.S. on her back in their opening match of the tournament, scoring twice against Australia to secure a 3-1 win, including a brilliant solo goal to cement the win.

Ramona Bachmann channels inner Lionel Messi

"Messi’s my role model." You can see why. The Swiss attacker, who told FIFA in a recent interview that she models her game after that of the Barcelona star, enamored herself to everyone with the most dazzling individual run of the tournament against Japan, beating several defenders with a combination of sheer speed, trickery and shiftiness. It remains a crime against humanity that she slipped before getting a shot off.

Marta etches her name in the history books

Though Brazil's tournament as a whole was a disappointment, their most legendary player - and one of the best in women's soccer history - did reach a personal milestone that may never be bested. Marta scored a record 15th Women's World Cup goal in a group stage match against South Korea, slotting home a penalty with the confidence that has come to define her game.

Colombia stuns France

Colombia's 2-0 group stage win over tournament favourites France, ranked No. 3 in the world, was powered by the confidence of Lady Andrade - and a little bit of luck - and is firmly established as the greatest upset in the history of the tournament.

Aussie Aussie Aussie, Oi Oi Oi

The Matildas were one of the most exciting teams in the tournament - anybody who argues otherwise will likely also try to sell you snake oil. Australia's breathtaking speed on the counter-attack a constant threat, and was ultimately responsible for their greatest accomplishment: an upset victory over Brazil in the Round of 16.

Japan's mind-bending goal vs. the Netherlands

The beautiful game lived up to its name in Japan's Round of 16 win over the Netherlands, as the Nadeshiko scored the finest team goal of the competition in the second half of their 2-1 triumph. The typically sleek Japanese build-up play featured a back-heel, quick cutback pass and expertly executed dummy before Mizuho Sakaguchi curled a perfect effort into the corner.

Sesselmann down, Canada goes with her

A huge gasp from some 53,000 fans in BC Place was followed by stunned silence, as Lauren Sesselmann's unfortunate slip early in Canada's quarterfinal against England paved the way for the host nation to be knocked out of the tournament. It was a cruel ending to the competition for the defender, who had worked so hard to recover from a torn ACL just to take part in what was likely her final World Cup.

Angerer comes up big one last time

Age really is just a number. For Nadine Angerer, more than most. The iconic German goalkeeper, playing in her final Women's World Cup, made the only save in the quarterfinal shootout against France, diving down to her left and thwarting Les Bleues' hopes of reaching the semifinals of the competition.

Sasic goes wide left

Arguably the defining moment of the tournament. Sasic, the leading scorer in the competition, had a chance to give the Germans the lead over the United States in the second half of their semifinal match, stepping to the penalty spot with the match knotted at nil-nil. As you can see by the photo above, it didn't go quite according to plan: the striker miscued her spot-kick, rolling it wide of the post.

Carli Lloyd sends United States back to the final

Carli Lloyd had toiled away in defensive midfield early in the tournament, but a shift in formation - beginning in the quarterfinals - saw the veteran pushed back into her more natural role as a quasi No. 10, and since that time she was the driving force for the Americans. Lloyd scored once and set up another in the United States' 2-0 semifinal win over Germany.

Poor Laura Bassett

Laura Bassett and the Three Lionesses didn't deserve this. Dominant against Japan in their semifinal, England was felled by one of the cruelest incidents in the history of the sport when Bassett deflected a 92nd-minute cross off the crossbar and into her own net, resigning her team to a crushing 2-1 loss.

England bounces back with historic victory

This is how you push heartbreak aside. Following the gut-wrenching loss to Japan, England rebounded with a 1-0 extra time win over Germany to claim third place at the tournament for the first time in its history. Most people say the third-place match is meaningless. Try telling that to the Three Lionesses, whose jubilation upon hearing the final whistle will long be remembered.

Carli Lloyd obliterates Japan with hat trick, lifts U.S. to title

Sixteen minutes. Three goals. One from the halfway line. Carli Lloyd capped off the most dominant knockout stage the Women's World Cup has ever seen by putting an exclamation point on the tournament, living up to her reputation as a big-game star and leading the U.S. to the World Cup title with a hat trick in Sunday's stunning 5-2 win over Japan. The Golden Ball was just reward for the woman who was an unstoppable force when there was no room for error.