Defending champions Japan and the rival United States are gearing up for the Women’s World Cup final in Vancouver on Sunday where both teams will have the added motivation of trying to avenge a past loss to the other.
For the Americans, it is all about avenging their loss to Japan in the 2011 World Cup final where the latter triumphed on penalties after the game finished 2-2 after extra time.
For the defending world champions, the game represents a chance to get one back on the Americans for their 2-1 win in the gold medal game at the 2012 London Olympics.
“(The Americans) took the Olympic gold medal but we aren’t going to hand over the World Cup. That is the kind of spirit we will play with,” said Japanese midfielder Aya Miyama.
Many Japanese fans will still clearly recall the referee’s controversial failure to award Japan a penalty during the gold medal game when midfielder Tobin Heath handled inside the area.
Heath, on the other hand, will still have painful memories of her penalty being saved in the 2011 shootout after team mates Carli Lloyd and Shannon Boxx had also failed to convert.
All three of those players are in Jill Ellis’s current U.S. squad and will be keen to erase those memories by winning the country’s third World Cup title and first since 1999.
“These are two talented teams with a lot of history and rivalry, and I think it will be a classic matchup,” said Ellis.
“Both teams have a lot of the same players from 2011, but that said, this is a different team on a different journey, and I know all 23 players and our staff are tremendously excited for this next challenge.”
For Japan coach Norio Sasaki, the final, which will offer a clear contrast in styles between the clever, short-passing game of the Asian champions and the more robust, direct approach of the Americans, should be another thriller.
“In 2011, both teams had a wonderful game in the final and for women’s football in the world, I hope that we will have a wonderful game like the way we did then,” said Sasaki.
Japan booked their place in Sunday’s final with a 2-1 win over England, which was decided by an injury time own goal while the Americans defeated Germany 2-0 in the other semi-final.