One year and 23 days after Japan beat USA on penalties to become world champions in Frankfurt, the North Americans will have a chance to exact revenge. This time the setting is the magnificent Wembley Stadium, with no less a prize at stake than Olympic gold.
While the two sides will face off with much the same attacks as a year ago, there are noticeable differences. The Aya Miyama-Homare Sawa partnership, which proved so vital to the Nadeshiko’s triumph in Germany, has yet to really light up the tournament in Great Britain. Their opponents, meanwhile, have a strike force in top form and strengthened by the extraordinary talent of Alex Morgan, who has gone from being a game-changing substitute to an undisputed and indispensable starter.
USA will be intent on holding onto the gold medal they have all but made their own, having won three of the four previous editions of this tournament and finished runners-up on the other occasion (Sydney 2000). Japan, in contrast, will be hoping to continue their Olympic progress after going out at the group stage at Atlanta 1996, reaching the quarter-finals at Athens 2004, then losing the bronze medal match against Germany in Beijing. And which team denied them a shot at gold in the semi-finals four years? You guessed it: USA.
0 - No FIFA Women’s World Cup winning side have ever managed to pick up Olympic gold the year after their world title.
“We’ll be going for gold in the final – we’re not even thinking about silver. We’ve already proven at this tournament that we can beat anyone,” Kozue Ando, Japan striker.
“To be able to play in a fourth Olympic final is just incredible, and facing Japan will a real thrill. This tournament is totally different [from the Women’s World Cup]. Since Japan won the world title, they’ve earned much more respect. The media follow them everywhere, they have more fans... and it’s great to see how the sport has grown over there, as they’re an amazing team. They’ve probably even improved since Germany 2011, but then again, so have we,” Christie Rampone, USA defender and captain.