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Familiar foes USWNT, Japan meet again in World Cup final match

photo by Michael Chow/USA Today Sports


If the U.S. Women’s National Team is to snap its 16-year run without a World Cup , it will have to do so against a very familiar foe. The same foe that snatched the tournament trophy away from the Americans’ fingertips four years ago.

The U.S. will meet Japan in the Women’s World Cup final on Sunday, marking the third straight meeting in a championship game between the two nations. The Americans most recently beat Japan in the final at the 2012 Olympics, but it was pain from the defeat they suffered one year prior at the World Cup that still resonates.

The U.S. had Japan on the ropes twice in that final, but allowed the Japanese to score late goals, including three minutes before the end of extra time. If that was not enough heartbreak for the Americans, the ensuing penalty shootout surely was. The U.S. missed its first three attempts and wound up losing, 3-1, after four rounds of penalty kicks.

The World Cup dreams had been crushed, but now the U.S. has a shot at making amends.

After beating a tournament favorite in Germany, 2-0, in the semifinals, Jill Ellis’ will now head into BC Place in Vancouver, Canada, with plenty of confidence. The Americans turned in their best performance of this World Cup in that match, and will be looking to build on that against a Japan team that just eked out a 2-1 win over England.

Japan may have prevailed in that game thanks to a late own goal, but still possesses a combination of talent and experience to cause the U.S. fits. Ellis will need to carefully weigh her lineup choices and tactics for the Americans to avoid another letdown to the Japanese, and she could very well use the same 4-4-2 formation that was used to topple the Germans.

In Tuesday’s semifinals duel, Ellis deployed Alex Morgan and Carli Lloyd up top while surprisingly leaving all of Christen Press, Sydney Leroux, and Abby Wambach on the bench. The decision paid off, however, as moving Lloyd to a more advanced position allowed the U.S. to have both veteran Lauren Holiday and promising youngster Morgan Brian in the center of the midfield.

Holiday and Brian did a solid job limiting Germany’s attacks, and will likely be counted upon to do the same vs. Japan captain Aya Miyama and co.

The Americans’ back line, which has not conceded a goal since the tournament opener, also has to be as solid as it has been throughout the World Cup. Julie Johnston and Becky Sauerbrunn have been rocks in central defense, and goalkeeper Hope Solo has done the job the few times she has been tested.

Another strong defensive performance could set the tone for Americans, who are starving for a World Cup trophy after failing to win one since 1999. What bodes well for the U.S. is that it has a bevy of experience in these championship games, and also a deep bench that Japan might not be able to.

Regardless, the Americans know that only a win will be acceptable on Sunday. They have already felt the severe pain and anguish from losing a World Cup final to Japan, and are keen to avoid a repeat of that feeling.


  1. The USWNT did not use a 4-4-2 to topple the Germans. They had been using a 4-4-2 all tournament long and then switched to a 4-3-3 or what looked like 4-2-3-1 against Germany.

    • For reals…dunno what game he was watching.

      USA had been in a traditional 4-4-2 all tournie, “officially” switched it up to 4-3-3 though it looked more like a 4-5-1 (or 4-2-3-1 for the purists) to me. Actually it looked more like a 4-1-4-1, with Morgan Brian playing the holding mid 6 role just over the defenders and Holiday and Lloyd as co-10’s.

      Don’t see why that wouldn’t work for us again. Again, our forwards – all of them – have largely been in very poor form all tournament, so might as well generate chances with the players who have been producing…you know, the non-forwards.

  2. I don’t fear the Japanese attack as much as that of Germany. I think the US ;should go to a 4-3-3 and bring in Leroux who has been seriously under utilized. I think her speed and that of Morgan could give the Japanese fits.

    • Why bring in Leroux? Ohh, I forgot those knockers. You wanna see them bouncing, right?

  3. Several women and a handful of men at the office have been buzzing about the USWNT since they won the group. At first it was mainly lukewarm interest and comments about lackluster play. But with each KO round match the team has shown better and better, and the group — which includes a talented defender from the Univ of Texas club team — is now pumped. We’re looking forward to a Cup celebration!

  4. Nice of this site to acknowledge this game is happening instead of posting a 6th article on RBNY’s open cup smackdown of Cosmos.

    • Agreed, SBI barely acknowledges the USWNT exists during the WWC finals run, yet will post multiple pre-game articles leading up to USMNT friendlies or articles covering 2nd or 3rd division men’s pro teams. Used to check this site daily, but once I realized they don’t care about women’s soccer, I instead started following journalists that will give coverage to women’s soccer. I suggest you check out “The Equalizer” which is a women’s soccer blog, or follow journalists like Grant Wahl, Steven Goff, Jeff Kassouf, or Dan Laulette who show respect to and cover women’s soccer

      • If US Soccer posts a 2-min video of Klinsmann, SBI is all over it. Lots of content has been coming out about the USWNT and WWC but I don’t think Ives cares about womens soccer. He would rather his writers spend time on NASL and USL. okay.

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