U.S. seeks redemption against Japan in gold medal game
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LONDON -- Abby Wambach and her American teammates have waited for this moment for 389 days, or since Saki Kumagai slammed her penalty kick past goalkeeper Hope Solo to boost Japan to the Women's World Cup title in Frankfurt, Germany.
A chance at redemption, a chance at glory, a chance at a championship.
"I've been hoping for this final since the moment I stepped off that podium in Germany," Wambach said Wednesday, remembering that feeling from July 17, 2011.
They'll get their wish when they face off with the Japanese for Olympic gold at Wembley Thursday.
The Americans will vie for their third straight gold medal and fourth overall in five tournaments since the women's competition began in 1996.
The Japanese will try to become the first team to win the WWC and Olympic gold in back-to-back years, a feat not even the great U.S. teams have been able to accomplish.
But the U.S. has some other ideas.
"The fact that we lost the World Cup and the way that we did gives us even more passion and desire to go out and perform," Wambach said.
The confrontation will be a test of wills and style. Japan likes to play a possession game. The Americans favor a hybrid of the possession style that coach Pia Sundhage prefers and the long-ball game that takes advantage of Wambach and Alex Morgan.
"What is really important is to impose ourselves on the game," midfielder Megan Rapinoe said. "The Japanese do a very good job of imposing their game on people. They keep possession in a small ticky-tacky kind of possession. It can slow the game down to their pace. If we try to impose our style and be a little more direct, go at them a little aggressively, we can get them on their heels a little bit."
The U.S. is 1-1-1 in three games against Japan this year.
"We know their strengths and weaknesses and vice versa, they know ours," Morgan said. "We need to bring our best game. We know each other very well."