United States vs. Japan
Sunday, July, 17, 2:00 pm EST
Commerzbank Arena, Germany
Televised: ESPN and ESPN3.com
Behind Hope Solo’s extraordinary goal keeping ability and clutch goals coming without a minute to spare the Americans find themselves in the World Cup Final. The United States’ women’s soccer team has been on a roller coaster ride of highs and lows from the start of the World Cup.
From being down 2-1 in the 122 minute in stoppage time in extra time to being outplayed by France for a large portion of the semi-final, the US team has looked shaky at times; however, somehow it always finds a way to come out with a victory.
In the thrilling last minute victory over Brazil, Megan Rapinoe sent a cross through the box that was headed in by Abby Wambach, sending the match to penalty kicks. The United States made all five opportunities to Brazil’s four. Goalie Hope Solo made a diving save which sent the United States on to the semi-finals (below).
The semi-final against France looked all but certain for the United States. Although they jumped out to an early lead the American midfielders looked as though they were still fatigued from playing 120 minutes the previous game, and playing with a man down for nearly 60 of those minutes. The French were able to tie the game in the 55th minute, and continued to out play to United States in the middle of the field. However, France was never able to capitalize with good shots on goal and never put the United States away. In the last fifteen minutes the U.S. scored twice to finish the game and advance to the World Cup Final.
Coming in to the game the United States is favored considerably by odds makers, but Japan has been the underdog in its last two games. The Japanese quick style of play presented problems for both Sweden and Germany. At the start of the tournament the Germany team was favored to win the World Cup, but after a 90 minute draw the Japanese were able to take the match 1 – 0 in extra time. Japan’s victory over Sweden was much less nerve-racking for the Japanese faithful. Japan asserted its dominance from the 10th minute on and cruised to a 3-1 victory.
The United States may have a tough time keeping up with the Japanese quickness over the course of the game. Both Sweden and Germany were worn down by the constant motion and ran out of fresh legs by the end of the match. However, the United States has proved that is both well-conditioned and resilient. The American team’s physicality may be what decides the game in their favor as the US players are much large and more physical than the Japanese players. No matter the outcome of the game it should be a good one, either restoring the United States to its #1 spot in women’s soccer, or putting Japanese soccer on the map.