MONTREAL - Even four years later, the loss still leaves a hollow feeling for the Americans.

A mere three minutes from an extra-time victory and a world championship, the United States squandered its second lead to Japan in the 2011 Women's World Cup final in Frankfurt, Germany. The Japanese managed to equalize at 2-2 and won via penalty kicks, 3-1, leaving the Americans defeated and devastated. "We can't let that happen again," striker Alex Morgan said.

The Americans will have a chance to make amends when they face Japan again on Sunday for the title. Japan defeated England, 2-1, in a semifinal last night. The U.S. earned its berth with a dominating 2-0 win over Germany Tuesday night.

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In some ways, that 2011 loss has been a silent motivating force for the USA.

"We were talking about that in the locker room after the game, just how horrible that feeling was four years ago," Morgan said. "Just having that still in the back of our minds. We cannot let the opportunity go."

Prior to the tournament, veteran defender Christie Rampone, the lone active player from the USA's 1999 world championship side, said that she always will remember that match, and its bitter memories.

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"You never forget," she said. "You remember your feelings after the loss and you can build on that and grow stronger so that you can put your best foot forward in those games.

"But you don't want to get too emotional where the game becomes more emotional than the actual game itself."

Of the win over Germany, Morgan, who was fouled on a controversial play that set up the winning goal on a penalty kick by Carli Lloyd, said: "This was our best game so far. We have been playing better and better each game. People were pretty critical of us early on but today proves just how good we can be."

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Added center back Julie Johnston: "The ultimate goal is to win, so we need to do whatever we can."

Big TV ratings. The U.S. team's 2-0 victory over Germany averaged 8.4 million viewers on Fox, making it the third-most-viewed women's game on American TV.

It trails only the 1999 final (17.98 million) and 2011 final (13.46 million). Viewership peaked in the 8:30- 8:45 p.m. Eastern Time quarter hour at 12.1 million.