Can you say déjà vu? Because that’s exactly what it’s going to feel like on Sunday as the USA Women take on Japan in this year’s championship, in a rematch of the 2011 Women’s World Cup Final (7pm ET on FOX).
Starting the tournament as second favorites to Germany, the US emerges as just a mere half a goal favorite over the rival Japanese team. The total score for the game is set at 2.5, a testament to the defensive strengths both teams have shown.
Overall, this should be a final for the ages and one that would haunt the USA Women team if they can’t attain retribution for 2011.
Defense Wins Championships. No Really, it does.
The saying is tried and true in the sports world. Defense wins championships. It’s likely been around as long as athletics itself. It’s endured the test of the time and more often than not has proven accurate. Well, if such really is the case, the US has shown why as there has never been a more dominant defensive performance in soccer than the clinic the American Women have put on this tournament.
The US title aspirations began in what was deemed the ‘Group of Death.’ Of course, a large part of this distinction was because of America’s presence as the #2 ranked team in the world. Nevertheless, the US Women’s journey to redemption began on June 8th, the third full day of the tournament.
America faced Australia, the 10th ranked team according to FIFA, in that first match and in the 27th minute they conceded an equalizer to Lisa de Vanna. It was the lone goal the Aussies would score in the 3-1 loss but it went beyond that. In fact, despite facing top FIFA teams in #1 Germany, #16 China and #5 Sweden among others, it was the only goal the USA Women would surrender in their six games.
The US is currently in the midst of a 513-minute shutout streak which is the second-longest in tournament history behind only Germany’s 679-minute record from 2003-2011. This is the first time the US Women have recorded five shutouts in a single World Cup as well.
Throughout the course of the World Cup, Germany was an excellent scoring team. Once again, this was a battle between offense and defense and once again, defense emerged victorious. Japan’s offense is not nearly as potent but the Asian representative does have a victory over the US Women from the last World Cup and has been a tough matchup for the Americans since.
Fueled by Retribution, the 2015 World Cup is America’s to Lose
Going along the theme of popular sport mottos, there is almost no motivator more significant than that of revenge and retribution. For the US team, that redemption is much needed as 2011 still leaves a bad taste in the players’ mouths, mainly because they were so, so close.
USA led 1-0 with just nine minutes remaining in regulation, 2-1 with just three minutes left in overtime. The title was theirs to lose and lose it they did. The game came down to penalty kicks and was ultimately won by the Japanese Women.
It was a heartbreaking loss for a USA Women team that had been 22-0-3 against Japan. The expectation and belief was that America would win and when they didn’t, it sent shockwaves throughout the country, shockwaves that are still alive and well today.
In a way, it is perfect that the US road to win their record-setting third title and first since 1999, has to go through Japan. It gives America an opportunity to capture the gold while also getting the redemption that has been four years in the making. When it comes down to it, this is exactly the match the USA Women wants and need.
USA Women v Japan Women Preview’s Betting Picks
The US considered themselves the team of destiny in 2011, doing so after a miraculous win against Brazil in the semifinals. This year however, USA has been the team of domination, allowing just one goal over the course of the tournament. They enter as favorites to win and were our picks to go all the way back before the World Cup even began.
The Unites States’ roster is loaded with stars from Carli Lloyd (pictured) to Alex Morgan to Julie Johnston and of course Hope Solo. Defensively the ladies have been on point and offensively, while the goals haven’t been as numerous as one may have expected, they’ve been enough. After all, when your defense is pitching shutouts, all you need is one to win.
But to be fair, the Japan Women have really cruised through the World Cup as well. Entering the finals, they are the only team to have won every single match, the US of course playing to no losses but a 0-0 draw in group play. England gave Japan a real challenge however and if not for a devastating injury-time own-goal that cost them the chance to take the game to extra time, they might have been playing USA instead in the final.
Both teams have scored just nine goals over the six games so don’t expect this to be some high-scoring affair. Defense has been the story for the US and they will need to rely on that yet again if they want to defeat Japan. A quick start will be crucial as it will prevent Japan from settling into their game and taking control of the pace. The United States doesn’t want that.
Behind the top of the line defense of Johnston, who has been USA’s best on that side of the ball, the elite goaltending of Solo, who has saved just over 92% of the shots she’s faced and of course the scoring of Lloyd, whose penalty goal against Germany was the difference maker, America’s women have a strong enough roster to come out on top. They are fueled by a deep motivation as well and that has been obvious this whole time and will be especially prevalent come Sunday.