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U.S. Women’s Soccer Set For World Cup Final Against Japan

Sunday, July 05, 2015

 

The USWNT before a recent match. Photo courtesy of: Flickr/Tayler Pitt

After starting their quest for a third FIFA Women’s World Cup nearly a month ago, the U.S. Women’s National Team (USWNT) is one win away from raising the most prized trophy in women’s soccer. 

Standing in the way of that moment is 90 minutes on Sunday against Japan in Vancouver, Canada - a match that is primed to be a sterling encounter of two of the world’s best teams. 

The USWNT is ranked second in FIFA’s world rankings, while Japan is ranked fourth. Each team also has stalwart figures in attack and defense who can leave their mark on the game in various ways. 

How Did They Get There?

As competitive as the 24-team field has been in Canada, both teams have charged through the group stage and knockout rounds. 

Team USA has won five matches and tied one, but most remarkably just knocked off top-ranked Germany in the semi-final round by a score of 2-0. Results before then have been both shaky and inspiring, but the USWNT is now clicking on all cylinders ahead of Sunday’s championship match.

As for Japan, they’ve quietly been one of the best teams of the tournament, but garnered little media attention. The team has won all six of their games, playing with both a potent attack and resolute defense. More importantly though, they've proven to be a disciplined team from front to back.

"Something that is very surprising is their set pieces," said Huan Nguyen, National Women's Soccer League writer for SB Nation's Once A Metro blog. "Despite their height they have a knack for getting loose balls and being in the right positions. They have won every game by one goal so you can see they are very mentally tough."

Japan most recently knocked off England by a score of 2-1 in the semi-final round and are playing their best soccer heading into the final.

Rising Form

All throughout the World Cup, questions about team USA's formation and tactics have been at the forefront of heavy fan criticism, and justifiably so. 

The team fought their way through a group stage of Australia, Sweden, and Nigeria, but did little to impress in any match. Then in the early portions of the knockout round, the U.S. relied on superior athleticism and fitness to emerge victorious as opposed to a refined game plan. 

Alex Morgan is the USWNT's lead striker. Photo courtesy of: Flickr/Tayler Pitts

But then, everything changed when the Germans were beaten in the semi-final round. All 11 players found a role they excelled in, there was the right balance of defensive security and attacking might, and big name players rose to the occasion. 

"It seems like they finally found a formation that they are successful at," said Nguyen. "Their defense had been good in all their games, but they are finally creating more opportunities to score and hopefully Alex Morgan finds her form and can convert those chances."

The team is peaking at the right moment and has quelled any questions surrounding themselves. 

The Rematch

As much as Japan’s Aya Miyama or the USWNT’s Morgan can change the game in an instant, the dominant headline is that Sunday will be a rematch of the 2011 World Cup Final. 

In 2011, after both nations were tied 2-2 at the end of extra time, it was Japan who won the ensuing penalty kick shootout by a score of 3-1. That result undoubtedly sits fresh in the minds of both of the Americans and Japanese, with the U.S. trying to avenge defeat and Japan trying to prove their win wasn’t a one-off scenario. 

"It should be a good match," Nguyen said. "Japan is a very technical side. It'll be interesting to see if coach Jill Ellis sticks with the 4-3-3 [formation] or goes back to the 4-4-2 [formation]."

TV Details

The match will be broadcast on FOX and Telemundo at 7 PM at Vancouver’s BC Place. 

 

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