July 5, 2015
By Michael Lewis
READY TO END THE DROUGHT
A confident USA team takes on Japan for the Women's World Cup crown
|Carli Lloyd: "We have really good momentum. We also have really good confidence within our group. But I also think we need to raise our game. This is a final. This is where you put everything on the line, there's no holding "
Linda Cuttone/Sports Vue Images
VANCOUVER -- The United States women can end a 16-year drought in the Women's World Cup on Sunday.
Win and they will secure their third world championship in seven tries, the most by any national team.
Lose and it will be virtually a generation between titles, with the next tournament scheduled for France in 2019.
There is nothing in-between.
Both teams have something to play for, losing to each other in recent championship games.
At the 2001 Women's World Cup final in Germany, the USA twice squandered leads, giving up the equalizing goal in the 117th minute as the Japanese prevailed in a shootout, 3-1.
A year later at the London Olympics, the Americans secured their third consecutive gold medal, stopping the Asian side, 2-1.
"In 2011, I felt like the stars were aligning," USA striker Abby Wambach said. "But guess what? The stars can blow up at any moment for us."
The Americans feel they are in a good place, coming off a dominating 2-0 triumph over Germany in the semifinals in Montreal Tuesday.
"I think we have really good momentum," said Carli Lloyd, who has scored in each of the USA's knockout wins. "I think we also have really good confidence within our group. But I also think we need to raise our game. This is a final. This is where you put everything on the line, there's no holding back."
Early on in the competition, many observers felt the red, white and blue was holding back.
The USA started out slowly, but has picked up momentum during the tournament, which has taken them from Winnipeg to Vancouver to Ottawa to Montreal and eventually back to Vancouver again.
"In the first few games, everyone knew we weren't playing up to our potential," midfielder Megan Rapinoe said. "We were giving teams too much space and we were worrying too much about what we should be doing than acting instinctually. But, in the last three games and especially against Germany we've grown into ourselves in the tournament and have felt much more relaxed."
The Americans should feel at home. Vancouver is close to the U.S. border and played five matches at B.C. Place during CONCACAF qualifying for the 2012 Olympic soccer tournament.
"Even though we're in Canada, these matches have been feeling like we're at home," Rapinoe said. "We have been selling out stadiums and they're packed with mostly U.S. Fans. I can't imagine it being too much different if we were actually in America. We're getting recognized all over Canada and I expect another great U.S. crowd."
The most technical team in the tournament, Japan will be a tough nut to crack because of its ability to move the ball on the ground quickly. The Japanese are led by captain and star midfielder Aya Miyama, who sets her teamís pace.
"We don't overlook Japan for one second because they're very, very organized and a good team," Wambach said. "The best team will left standing on Sunday night and of course, we hope it's us."
Added USA head coach Jill Ellis: "They recognize their strengths and they play to their strengths in terms of trying to pull you apart and break you down."
The game kicks off at 7:00 pm ET (4:00 pm local time), and coverage on FOX begins at 5:00 ET