Women's World Cup final: Keys to victory for U.S., Japan
- Abby Wambach and Hope Solo hope to be celebrating a World Cup title Sunday. (Photo: Associated Press)
FRANKFURT, Germany (AP, WJLA) — Three things to look for from Japan and the United States in Sunday's final at the Women's World Cup:
— Possession-oriented system. Japan has drawn comparisons to Barcelona for its lightning quick passes and slick combination play, and they often look as if they're playing a game of keepaway, holding onto the ball for long stretches of time. It's smart defense, too. If the Americans can't get the ball, they can't score.
— Homare Sawa. Playing in her fifth World Cup, the 32-year-old Sawa has looked ageless, scoring four goals to share the lead in the tournament with Marta. "She's good on both sides of the ball," U.S. coach Pia Sundhage said. "If you look at the work rate, 90 minutes — and not only one game, all games she's been playing. She finds a way to complete passes. What I'm impressed of is she's scored goals. She's shorter than I am and she's scored some headers. That tells you how she reads a game."
— Nahomi Kawasumi. Can she duplicate her super start against Sweden? A surprise starter in the semifinal after playing a total of just 29 minutes in the first four games, she scored twice, including a gorgeous lob over Hedvig Lindahl from about 35 yards out.
— Height advantage. Abby Wambach is one of the best players in the world in the air, and she's scored two goals off headers in the past two games. With Japan's tallest player only 5-foot-7 — 4 inches shorter than Wambach — the American could wreak some serious havoc if she gets the ball intp the box. "(Wambach) is very big and very strong," Sawa said. "We have to avoid her getting fed with balls."
— Composure in the midfield. The U.S. was getting bogged down in the midfield against France until Sundhage brought Megan Rapinoe in, put her on the left flank and moved Lauren Cheney inside to center midfield. The move gave the Americans more creativity and they'll need more of that against Japan, which might be even more technically proficient than the French.
— Hope Solo. Solo is, arguably, the best goalkeeper in the world, and she essentially gives the Americans an extra defender. Since she took over as the primary U.S. 'keeper in 2005, the Americans have lost just two — count 'em, two — games she's started: the opener at the Beijing Olympics and the final group game here against Sweden. "If something breaks down, we know (opponents) still have Hope to contend with," midfielder Shannon Boxx said.
In a tweet sent out on Sunday morning, President Barack Obama sent his well wishes to the U.S. Women's National Team.
To the women of our national soccer team: Sorry I can't be there to see you play, but I'll be cheering you on from here. Let's go. -BO
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