It’s the matchup that everyone was hoping for, United States v. Japan. The Americans look to be playing their best soccer of the tournament at the moment, while Japan appears to have luck on their side. The rematch of the 2011 final in Germany promises to be just as dramatic and entertaining as the original and right now it looks like it’s the United States’ to lose.
In their semifinal matchup against the Germans, the USWNT finally looked like the attacking team that everyone has been hoping for going into the tournament. Set pieces were starting to produce chances and they were unlucky for Julie Johnston not to head one home minutes into the match. Alex Morgan was finally starting to get service in the attacking third, and that service finally paid off when Morgan earned the penalty leading to Carli Lloyd’s opener. As the U.S. Attack nears peak form, the team becomes nearly insurmountable and there’s no better time to peak than now.
The story of the tournament, so far, has to be the play of the American defense. Their current shutout streak (513 minutes) is the second longest in Women’s World Cup history and only one team has registered more than two shots on target against them. Even the tournament’s top attack, Germany, was held to just one shot against Hope Solo in the semifinals. Sunday, they’ll go up against a Japanese team that has yet to be shutout this Cup, so it will be interesting to see which streak comes to an end.
I think luck plays an important part in any tournament and there’s not really any other way to describe the goal that got Japan to the finals. The last minute own goal from England’s Laura Bassett would’ve been a highlight reel goal had it been on the other end, but the top corner effort found the wrong net. If Japan can keep the game close, the last couple minutes could be very hectic for the Americans as the current champions pepper the area with dangerous through balls.
While Japan hasn’t been shutout during this tournament, they’ve been far from dominant on attack. Other than their semifinal match, the Japanese women have only scored more than once in a match twice this tournament, and no game has seen them score more than two goals. However, they do not rely on one player to provide goals as seven different players have found the back of the net this tournament. The wide array of potential scorers could be Japan’s saving grace in the final against this formidable American back line.
I can’t write a preview for a World Cup final involving the U.S. and not pick them to win. The game against Germany showed fans just how dominant the Americans can be when they’re at their best and I think that quality will come out against Japan. Final score United States 2-0 Japan. Go, go USA!