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U.S. vs. Japan: Breaking down World Cup final

Team USA's Carli Lloyd, right, celebrates with teammates

Team USA's Carli Lloyd, right, celebrates with teammates Ali Krieger (11) and Morgan Brian after scoring on a penalty kick against Germany during the second half of a semifinal in the Women's World Cup soccer tournament, Tuesday, June 30, 2015, in Montreal, Canada. Credit: AP / Ryan Remiorz

The series

The USA holds a 24-1-6 advantage over Japan. The Americans suffered their only defeat to Japan in the 2012 Algarve Cup, 1-0. That was the first game since the 2011 Women's World Cup final, when Japan overcame two deficits, including scoring the equalizer with three minutes left in extra time for a 2-2 tie that forced a shootout. The Japanese prevailed in penalty kicks, 3-1. The result officially went into the books as a draw. The USA exacted a measure of revenge at the 2012 London Olympics, winning the gold-medal match, 2-1, as Carli Lloyd became the first player to score in back-to-back Olympic finals.

Players to watch


Carli Lloyd, who has scored in three consecutive games, including two game-winners, connected in the 2008 and 2012 gold-medal Olympic finals. Megan Rapinoe is the best left-sided midfielder in the game because she can score and creates goals. The USA defense has been outstanding as center backs Julie Johnston and Becky Sauerbrunn and outside backs Ali Krieger and Meghan Klingenberg are making things easy for goalkeeper Hope Solo. Strange as it may sound entering the final, USA strikers have scored only twice -- Abby Wambach (vs. Nigeria) and Alex Morgan (vs. Colombia). The rest of the front line has underachieved.


Captain and midfielder Aya Miyama, who has scored a team-best two goals, runs the Japanese attack and sets the pace. Playing in her fourth World Cup, the 30-year-old Miyama scored a tying goal against the USA in the 2011 final and converted the first penalty kick in the shootout. Midfielder Homare Sawa might be 36 and nearing the end of her illustrious career, but the former captain still has the magic in her feet to be a game-changer.

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