United States remember the last time they met Japan: ‘It’s not a good feeling’

The US were defeated by Japan in the last Women's World Cup final four years ago – and they're determined not to let history repeat itself on Sunday.

Abby Wambach starred for the US runners-up side at the 2010 Women's World Cup. Darryl Dick / The Canadian Press / AP / July 4, 2015
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Abby Wambach remembers the date by heart: July 17, 2011.

That was the day the United States lost to Japan in the Women’s World Cup title match in Germany.

The Americans get a rematch on Sunday when the teams meet again in the final, this time in Canada. The US women are favoured, and there figures to be a mostly pro-American crowd making the short trip across the border to Vancouver’s BC Place.

Wambach and the rest of her teammates say they aren’t taking anything for granted. The United States, ranked No 2 in the world, are seeking their third World Cup title, but first since 1999.

“We still have to win. We haven’t won anything yet, and we know what that feels like from four years ago,” Wambach said. “It’s not a good feeling.”

The United States are coming off an impressive 2-0 semi-final victory over Germany, the team that had unseated the Americans for the top spot in the world rankings. Criticised at times for lacking in attack, the US have posted five straight clean sheets.

“I think we have really good momentum. I think we have confidence as a group. But we need to raise our game as well,” said midfielder Carli Lloyd, who leads the Americans with three goals. “This is the final, everything’s on the line, there’s no holding back. There’s no reserving energy. It’s full throttle.”

Japan, ranked No 4 in the world, have won each of their six matches during the monthlong tournament, relying on their steady tactical skill. They are trying for their second straight World Cup title.

“It’s the final game, the last one, so there’s no more than that and we should really cherish this moment that we are going to the final,” Japan coach Norio Sasaki said. “But I would also like to have a game that would contribute to the development of football in the world.”

Japan’s victory over the United States four years ago was Asia’s first-ever World Cup title.

The Japanese erased a pair of one-goal deficits. Wambach scored in the 104th minute to give the US a 2-1 lead, and Homare Sawa tied it 13 minutes later. Japan then prevailed 3-1 on penalty kicks.

It was an emotional victory, following the massive earthquake and tsunami that hit the nation in March, killing more than 20,000 people and touching off the worst nuclear catastrophe since Chernobyl in 1986.

Before boarding the flight home from Germany, Sawa said: “I have to dedicate this win to the people who suffered the disaster.”

This timearound, anchored by Hope Solo in goal, the United States’ most consistent asset in the World Cup so far has been the defence.

Solo, who won the Golden Glove award for the 2011 World Cup, has put up five straight clean sheets. She has been helped by a solid backline of Meghan Klingenberg, Becky Sauerbrunn, Julie Johnston and Ali Krieger.

The United States have gone 513 minutes without conceding a goal. Only Australia, in the first half of the group-stage opener, have managed to score against the Americans.

It will be the US team’s fourth appearance in the final. The Americans won the World Cup the first year of the women’s tournament in 1991, and then again in 1999.

The ‘99ers, as they are called, defeated China on penalty kicks in the final at the Rose Bowl.

The United States have a 24-1-6 all-time record against Japan, and a 2-1 advantage in World Cup meetings.

This is the third major women’s football tournament where Japan have played the United States in the final. The countries also met in the gold-medal match at the 2012 Olympics, which the Americans won 2-1.

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