Monday 6th July – 00:00 – BC Place Stadium
29 days. 51 games played. Just one more to go at this summer’s Women’s World Cup. Of course it’s the final, and a repeat of the 2011 showpiece as Japan face the USA. Revenge has driven the latter, losers four years ago, throughout the tournament, and they can become the first country ever to win three tournaments if they are victorious in Vancouver. A 2-0 semi-final win over tournament favourites Germany mean that they go into the final having conceded just one goal in Canada and are the favourites to lift the trophy. But Japan were the underdogs in 2011, so will be hoping to cause an upset once again after narrowly beating England 2-1 in their semi-final. It has been an incredible tournament which deserves a thrilling final, and it is sure to be a feisty encounter with scores to be settled. There is expected to be a crowd of more than 53,000 at the BC Place Stadium, and you can watch at home by tuning in to BBC Two at 11:30pm, with kick-off an hour later.
- USA veteran striker Abby Wambach has started on the bench for the last two games, and could well be again in the final, but is sure to feature at some point.
- Jill Ellis may keep the same starting XI all together from the semi-final after dominating Germany in Montreal.
- Japan manager Norio Sasaki must decide who to start upfront. Regular Yuki Ogimi or youngster Mana Iwabuchi, who has made a few substitute appearances so far in Canada, making a great impact.
USA – Carli Lloyd
Having scored in the last two rounds, Carli Lloyd is on form going into the final and has been nominated for the Player of the Tournament award. The 32 year old’s goals secured gold medals in both the 2008 and 2012 Olympics, whilst she has struck in World Cups before and in Canada, where her team has had trouble finishing chances. In fact, Lloyd has been involved in six of the USA’s nine goals at this tournament (3 goals, 3 assists). Like many of her team-mates, the midfielder is an experienced international, competing in two previous World Cups and making 201 appearances for the national side, scoring on 66 occasions.
Japan – Aya Miyama
With veteran Homare Sawa struggling with injuries, Aya Miyama was handed the Japanese captain’s armband at the start of the tournament and has led by example to get within touching distance of lifting the World Cup. She has two goals so far, and like Lloyd, has been nominated for the Player of the Tournament award. The 30 year old is an experienced international with 152 Japan caps (38 goals), and was named in the team of the tournament at the last World Cup, scoring in the final as well as netting her penalty in the shoot-out. Moreover, Miyama has been named Asian Women’s Player of the Year on two previous occasions.
The Key Battle: Julie Johnston vs Yuki Ogimi
Many people were expecting Becky Sauerbrunn to be the star of America’s defence at this World Cup, but 23 year old Julie Johnston has been the one earning praise for her superb performances at the back.
She has been the breakout star of the tournament, helping the USA concede just one goal in Canada and keep a clean sheet on five occasions.
Johnstson was the captain of the USA team that won the Under 20 World Cup in 2012, and also won the Bronze Ball at that tournament. She is looking to add the senior crown to that tonight, whilst she has also been nominated for the Golden Ball.
Japan don’t play with an out and out striker, with their forwards instead looking to create attacks from deep. Their “number nine” in the final is number 17 Yuki Ogimi, a World Cup winner four years ago with 52 goals in 115 games for the national side.
She only has one so far in Canada though after a number of disappointing performances, but that could all be forgotten if she pops up with a goal in the final. She actually missed her penalty in the 2011 final shoot-out, and could easily be replaced by rising star Mana Iwabuchi if she fails to impress in Vancouver.
Road to the Final
Last Meeting: USA 1-1 Japan (5th March 2014)
The USA increased an unbeaten run to 43 games with a 1-1 draw against Japan in their opening game of the 2o14 Algarve Cup. The USA dominated the game, having a goal disallowed for offside and a shot cleared off the line, and took the lead just before the hour mark as Sydney Leroux slid to block a clearance from Japan goalkeeper Erina Yamane, meaning the ball bounced back into the open net. However seven minutes from time, Anya Miyama fired a free-kick into the top corner from 35 yards after Becky Sauerbrunn had been penalised for handball. Japan went on to reach the final of the Algarve Cup, whilst the USA lost their next two games, meaning they were knocked out at the group stages.
My Prediction: USA 2-0 Japan
Japan are going to have to play much better than they did against England if they are to have any chance of beating the USA. The quality, ambition and determination in Jill Ellis’ squad will surely be too much, and it could be a comfortable victory for the Americans – a stark contrast to 2011. Goals from Carli Lloyd and Alex Morgan will give them a record third World Cup trophy. However, Japan upset the odds four years ago, so don’t completely rule out that possibility again.