Rematch Final: Wembley Hosts U.S. Versus Japan for Gold


There were a handful of contenders when the Olympic Games started, but many had Japan and the United States meeting again just as they did in the World Cup final last year.  The U.S. team provided more drama to get by Canada in the semifinal while Japan held off a flurry from France, including a missed penalty kick.  They are both battle tested and now face one another for the gold medal at Wembley Stadium.  Both teams have been on a mission for gold and nothing less will suffice.  It is sure to be a battle.

Japan beat the U.S. on penalty kicks in the World Cup and a 123rd header by Alex Morgan made the dream final come true.  The crowd at Wembley should be close to a sell out as neutral fans enjoy the draw.  The starting XI for Japan is basically the same.  For the U.S., Morgan and Megan Rapinoe are now starters and Lauren Cheney has been shifted.  The tactics will remain unchanged, however.  Japan wants to hold possession and win a passing game while the U.S. wants to attack and win set pieces.

Abby Wambach is the clear cut leader of this U.S. team.  Legend has it that she counted out loud each time Canada keeper Erin McLeod got the ball thus influencing the six second call.  She took over the huddles during extra time and her teammates fed off the words she said.

"It really does just take one chance, one moment of brilliance for someone to do something special."

The U.S. team is fueled by heartache over the World Cup.  They came back to tie late and lost on a one-on-one competition.  They have been tweeting gold or bust after most games. They want nothing but the gold and feel like they have the ability to win outright.

For Japan they are a team that bonded over a tragedy.  The World Cup was a momentary relief from the tsunami and major heart break in their home land.  They could become the first team to win the World Cup and Olympic gold in back to back years.  They are a surgical team that follow the orders of their coach, Norio Sasaki.  The team was told not to score against South Africa because it would require more travel and they listened.  They are confident and unflappable.

The press conference on Thursday showed a loose group of players on the Japan side.  They joked about getting to fly home in first class and the goalkeeper was called a goddess.  They did not seem to feel the pressure.  Sasaki said it is his job to find an incentive that will motivate his team to win.  They know the U.S. is drawing off the loss.

The U.S. needs to keep their emotions in check early.  One step too far on defense could mean an opening goal for Japan.  The Japanese women will be ready from the opening whistle.  It should be a great final for gold and the U.S. women are hoping to make things right from last year.

Kickoff is scheduled for 2:45 pm eastern time on NBC Sports Network