2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup
United States vs Japan
BC Place – Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
Sunday, July 5, 2015, 7:00 pm Eastern, TV: Fox, Telemundo
Spread: United States +1/2 (-126) / Japan +1/2 (+111)
Money Line: Japan +470 / USA -122 / Draw +239
Odds to Win: USA -280 / Japan +240
Total: under 2 -127 / over 2 +112
Odds courtesy of 5Dimes Sportsbooks
For the third straight major international tournament the United States and Japan will meet in the final. Japan upset the United States in penalty kicks in 2011 to win their first World Cup. The Americans would get their revenge in the Gold Medal Match of the 2012 Olympics in London. Now they meet again in the final of the 2015 World Cup Sunday in Vancouver. The Americans look to win the World Cup for the first time since 1999 and third time overall.
The teams have played 7 competitive matches with the United States winning six of those, but the notable exception is of course the 2011 Final in Germany. Overall, the United States is 20-1-6 against Japan.
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The United States are the #2 ranked team in the world and were the #1 seed in group D. The Americans opened group play with a 3-1 win over Australia, and then settled for a scoreless draw against Sweden. The US won the group with a 1-0 win over Nigeria, but Nigeria played with only 10 women for a lot of the match. In the round of 16, the United States won 2-0 against Colombia, who also played most of the second half with 10 women. The US would beat China 1-0 in the quarterfinals.
The Americans played #1 ranked Germany in the semifinals Tuesday in Montreal. Germany and the United States combined for 27 shots but neither team could score. US Forward Alex Morgan missed a couple of great opportunities in the first half. At 60 minutes, defender Julie Johnston fouled Germany’s Alexandra Popp in the box. Johnston received a yellow card but many thought it should have been a red card. Germany was awarded a penalty kick. Shockingly, Germany’s Celia Sasic who has six goals in the tournament missed the kick wide. Nine minutes later the US was awarded a penalty kick of their own as Annike Krahn fouled Morgan. However, replays showed Morgan was just outside of the box and it should have been a free kick instead. Nevertheless, Carli Lloyd buried the kick to give the US a 1-0 lead. The Americans would add an insurance goal at 84 minutes when Lloyd made a beautiful pass to Kelly O’Hara directly in front of the German net. That would prove to be the final. US goalkeeper Hope Solo kept a clean slate for the fifth straight match. While Solo has been spectacular most of the credit goes to the defenders because they are making sure Solo isn’t tested very much.
Japan was placed in Group C as the top seed. The Japanese are #4 in the World rankings. Japan is the only team in the tournament that has not suffered a loss or a draw. Every match has been decided by one goal though. In Group play, Japan beat Switzerland 1-0, Cameroon 2-1 and Ecuador 1-0. In the round of 16, Japan beat the Netherlands 2-1. The Japanese led 2-0 but gave up a very soft goal late to make the final appear closer than it was. Japan would beat Australia 1-0 in the quarterfinals.
While the US played their best match of the tournament in the semifinals, Japan played their worst match against England in the semifinals Wednesday in Edmonton. Despite Japan holding possession for 58% of the match, England outshot them 15-7. Both teams converted first half penalty kicks. Japan’s Aya Miyami converted hers at 33 minutes. Seven minutes later Fara Williams tied it for England with a penalty kick of her own. In the second half England missed three golden chances to take the lead, but couldn’t score. The game appeared to be headed to extra time until English defender Laura Bassett tried to kick it to English keeper Karen Bardsley late in stoppage time. Bassett looked on horrified as the ball crossed over the line for an own goal. She was consoled by her teammates but Japan would advance as England found themselves on the wrong end of a 2-1 final score.
The United States is coached by Jill Ellis. The Americans switched from a plodding 4-4-2 formation that they had used for most of the year to a 4-2-3-1 formation against Germany. It created more space on offense, and expect them to use the same formation against Japan.
The defense has been a bright spot for the Americans, conceding only one goal in six matches. Goalkeeper Hope Solo has been spectacular, despite some calls for her to be suspended after a well publicized domestic violence incident involving her nephew last year.
While Megan Rapinoe keyed the US attack in the group stage with 2 goals and an assist, Carli Lloyd has 3 goals and an assist in the knockout round. Alex Morgan and Abby Wambach are also dangerous strikers but each has only a goal in the tournament.
Japan is coached by Norio Sasaki. Japan uses a 4-4-2 formation on defense but switches to a 3-4-3 on offense. It keeps opponents off balance and leads to mistakes.
Goalkeeper Ayumi Kaihori has been very good in the tournament, except for the almost costly error against the Netherlands. Captain Aya Miyami has 2 goals and two assists in the tournament. Legendary midfielder Homare Sawa is playing in her sixth and final World Cup. But much like Abby Wambach for the United States, she is mostly a bench player now.Yuki Ogimi is also a dangerous scorer and physical player.
Thirteen of the 21 players on the field for the United States in the 2011 Final are on the 2015 squad. While Japan won’t make it easy, the United States is far too motivated and talented to lose again. The Americans win 1-0.
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