The FIFA Women’s World Cup Germany 2011™ comes to a conclusion on Sunday, with two-time world champions USA bidding to complete a hat-trick of titles against the technically accomplished Japanese, who are making their first appearance in the Final and have yet to record a win against the Americans.
It promises to be a tight encounter between two evenly matched sides who reached the final in identical style: the Stars and Stripes recording a 3-1 semi-final win over France, and the Japanese beating Sweden by the same scoreline.
Japan-USA, Sunday 17 July, Frankfurt, 20.45 (local time)
Inspired by their 32-year-old midfield linchpin Homare Sawa, the Nadeshiko have produced some exquisite football at Germany 2011 and scored some excellent goals. Their only defeat to date came in their final group game against England, by which time they had already secured a place in the last eight, where they stunned the hosts before going on to end Sweden’s run.
USA have a similar record, losing top spot in their section after losing to the Swedes and then hitting the heights with a dramatic quarter-final win over Brazil, the prelude to their clinical defeat of the French.
Coaches Norio Sasaki and Pia Sundhage are well acquainted. Three times their sides have faced each other in the last year, and three times the Americans have emerged victorious. Nor did the Japanese fare too well in the 25 previous meetings between the teams, drawing three and losing the rest.
Japan are the second Asian team to reach the FIFA Women’s World Cup Final after China at USA 1999, a tournament won by the hosts. The Japanese have another daunting statistic weighing against them: USA’s record in the final, which reads played two, won two.
12 - The number of FIFA Women’s World Cup goals USA striker Abby Wambach has amassed in her career, the same number her compatriot Michelle Akers achieved in the 1990s. Wambach has scored three goals at Germany 2011, all of them with her head, and at the age of 31 the Boca Raton magicJack goal-getter is just two short of all the time tournament record, held jointly by Germany’s Birgit Prinz and Marta of Brazil.
“Japan came out very strongly when they played Germany and Sweden, but we’ll be looking to control possession. That’s the message Pia will be giving us. We want the ball and we want to win by playing good football. I’m absolutely confident we can do that,” Carli Lloyd, USA midfielder.
"We are going to do our best to enjoy the game as we always do. We need to go into the match with a feeling of momentum and without fear of making mistakes," Norio Sasaki, Japan coach.