Four years later, Japan and the United States find themselves with a case of deja vu.
After almost a month of battling out other teams in the FIFA Women’s World Cup, the same two teams that squared off in the 2011 title match, as well as the 2012 Olympic championship, will face each other for the 2015 title.
But unlike that championship match in 2011, where Japan pulled off the upset of all upsets against the mighty Americans mere months after that devastating earthquake and tsunami, this championship has a completely different feel to it.
First off, this year Japan is not the relative unknown in the women’s football scene that it was four years ago. And with that comes more pressure. While they won’t have near the amount of pressure that the United States will have come Sunday, the Japanese do have more pressure in this match than a team like England would. People know who they are now, especially the United States. Four years ago the Americans might have taken the Japanese a little two lightly. This year, I highly doubt that will happen again.
And that added pressure has shown through out this tournament. That along with the fact that this Japanese team isn’t quite as good as that world championship team, have led to a less than dominating performance in this World Cup. Japan became the first team in Women’s World Cup history to win their first six matches of the tournament by exactly one goal. They have also yet to score more than two goals in a match so far as well. They’ve also gotten a bit lucky in a few matches as well, particularly in the England match with the late own goal. While luck is a part of sports, relying on that isn’t exactly a great strategy going up against the U.S.
Finally, this United States team is also different than four years ago. In 2011, the Americans gave up seven goals over the course of the tournament, including two against Sweden, Brazil and Japan. Meanwhile, the U.S. scored 13. This year the roles have been reversed. The defense has allowed just one goal all tournament, which came early on in the first match against Australia. In total, the American back five have yet to concede a goal in 513 consecutive minutes. On the other hand, the offense has scored just nine goals, including getting shutout by Sweden in the group stage.
Of course, this is a sporting event and things can change and breaks can make the ball bounce one way or another. The Japanese seem to have Lady Luck on their side and the United States’ defense that has been so strong could easily break down in the title game.
But while this year’s championship features the same two teams as in 2011, that’s where the similarities end between the two matches. These two teams are much different than those two in Germany. And there’s enough reasons to believe that this year’s title bout will be much different than that of four years ago.