VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Abby Wambach remembers the date by heart: July 17, 2011.
That’s when the United States lost to Japan in the Women’s World Cup title match.
The Americans get a rematch Sunday when the teams meet again in the final, this time in Canada. The U.S. women are favored, and there figures to be a mostly pro-American crowd making the short trip across the border to Vancouver’s BC Place.
Wambach and the rest of her teammates say they aren’t taking anything for granted. The United States, ranked No. 2 in the world, is seeking its third World Cup title — but first since 1999.
“We still have to win. We haven’t won anything yet, and we know what that feels like from four years ago,” Wambach said. “It’s not a good feeling.”
The United States is coming off an impressive 2-0 semifinal victory over Germany, the team that had unseated the Americans for the top spot in the world rankings.
Criticized at times for a lack of offense, the U.S. has posted five straight shutouts.
“I think we have really good momentum. I think we have confidence as a group. But we need to raise our game as well,” said midfielder Carli Lloyd, who leads the Americans with three goals. “This is the final. Everything’s on the line; there’s no holding back. There’s no reserving energy. It’s full throttle.”
Japan, ranked No. 4, has won each of its six matches during the monthlong tournament, relying on its steady tactical skill.
“We should really cherish this moment,” Japan coach Norio Sasaki said. “But I would also like to have a game that would contribute to the development of football in the world.”
Japan’s victory over the United States four years ago was Asia’s first World Cup title.
The Japanese erased a pair of one-goal deficits. Wambach scored in the 104th minute to give the U.S. a 2-1 lead, but Homare Sawa tied it 13 minutes later. Japan then prevailed 3-1 on penalty kicks.
It was an emotional victory following the massive earthquake and tsunami that hit the nation just a few months before, killing more than 20,000 and touching off the worst nuclear catastrophe since Chernobyl in 1986.
If this year is different, it could come down to the Americans’ defense, anchored by Hope Solo in goal.
Solo, who won the Golden Glove award at the 2011 World Cup, has put up five straight shutouts. She has been helped by a solid backline of Meghan Klingenberg, Becky Sauerbrunn, Julie Johnston and Ali Krieger.
The United States has gone 513 minutes without allowing a goal. Only Australia, in the first half of the group-stage opener, managed to score against the Americans.