Four years ago, Japan was hit by a devastating earthquake and tsunami that shook the nation. With over 15,000 killed and so many without food and water, the country looked to soccer for hope. Looking to inspire a nation, the Japan Women’s National Team advanced all the way to the final and beat the United States in penalty kicks. 1,449 days later, the reigning champs are back in the finals again against the U.S., and they are still as motivated as they were four years ago.
Sunday’s match is the third time Japan and the United States have met in a final championship match including the U.S beating Japan in the 2012 Olympics gold medal match. Japan has been stellar this tournament, winning every match by one goal. However, there have been a few bumps in the road for this team that may come to haunt them in the finals. In the semifinals, Japan was dominated by England but managed to advance after a devastating own goal by England defender Laura Bassett. A match earlier in the quarterfinals, Japan was given a controversial penalty to move past Austrailia.
At face value, their spot in the finals may come off as pure luck, but Japan remains the best team when it comes to technique. The team has been known for being patient while developing plays and are lethal on the counter-attack, something that the United States has struggled defending in the past. Japan plays so well together that there is arguably no other team in this tournament that has a greater team chemistry than this.
Shutting down midfielder Aya Miyama will be the most challenging test for the American backline. Although the United States defense has not conceded a goal in 513 minutes of play, Miyama’s quick footwork and incredible speed has made her one of the most dangerous in front of the net.
Taking the World Cup from Japan will not be an easy feat for team USA. Japan is confident going into this match and are ready for anything the Americans will throw at them. With each team boasting some of the best female soccer players in the world, this World Cup final rematch has the potential to be the most thrilling meeting between the two.