VANCOUVER: Japan can expect a US bent on revenge on Sunday as the champions bid to defend their title in the Women’s World Cup final. It will be the third showdown between the two sides in a major championship final in the past four years.
Nicknamed ‘the Nadeshiko’ — a pink flower symbolising grace and beauty — Japan won the 2011 World Cup crown in dramatic fashion in Frankfurt, Germany.
The US twice relinquished a one-goal lead before succumbing in a penalty shootout. But the Americans then took the Olympic gold ahead of Japan in London in 2012.
Both squads include many of the players who were on the pitch in the 2011 final, including all four goal scorers.
Alex Morgan and Abby Wambach scored for the United States, while Homare Sawa and Aya Miyama were on target for the Japanese.
Carli Lloyd was one of three US players to miss her penalty in 2011, but scored both goals in the Americans’ 2-1 win in the 2012 Olympic final.
“I want to bring everything I have to this game,” warned Lloyd, who has been in stunning form in Canada, scoring and setting up another goal in a 2-0 semi-final win over top-ranked Germany. “For me in the final everything is on the line, my foot on the pedal full force.”
The US could also be considered the home favourite with the 53,000-plus crowd at BC Place Stadium in Vancouver largely behind the Americans.
“We feel like we’re playing in the US,” added Lloyd.
Japan have won all their games so far in Canada by a one-goal margin while the US’ only blip came when they were held to a goalless draw by Sweden in their tough Group D.
The Americans, however, have been gaining momentum, with wins over China 1-0 and Germany 2-0, in their last two games while Japan beat England 2-1 thanks to an own goal by defender Laura Bassett in their semi-final.
Despite their familiarity, each team expects to see changes in the other. “They are less of a surprise,” said American Megan Rapinoe. “Last time they came out of nowhere. We know them a little bit better and they know us, but they don’t play exactly the same way as in 2011.”
Japan defender Saki Kumagai said revenge will be a factor, but added her fourth-ranked side will need more to lift them past the world number two team. “It’s a revenge [match] certainly for both sides because four years ago we had the final in Germany and for us two years ago we lost the final in the Olympics. We want to face the US with a fresh feeling but it will be revenge for sure.”
Published in The Express Tribune, July 5th, 2015.
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