Bring it on.
That’s how the U.S. women’s soccer team reacted to learning that Japan would be the opponent in the World Cup final.
The Americans beat Germany 2-0 on Tuesday to reach the championship game. Japan defeated England 2-1 on a late own goal. The rematch of the 2011 final won by Japan on penalty kicks is Sunday in Vancouver.
“In order to be the best team in the world at the World Cup, you have to beat the best teams,” star forward Abby Wambach said. “We just beat the No. 1 team in the world in Germany and now we face Japan, another team that we have so much respect for. They have an amazing team and they’re the reigning World Cup champions, so I think it’s going to be a fantastic final.
“Everyone will have to bring their ‘A’ game, and whoever finishes their chances the most will come out on top. Hopefully it will be us.”
The United States is 24-1-6 against Japan. The 2011 title game ended 2-2 and the Japanese won their first world title on penalty kicks.
“I think it’s fantastic,” U.S. coach Jill Ellis said. “These are two talented teams with a lot of history and rivalry, and I think it will be a classic matchup. Both teams have a lot of the same players from 2011, but that said, this is a different team on a different journey, and I know all 23 players and our staff are tremendously excited for this next challenge.”
Ellis’ counterpart, Japan’s Norio Sasaki, echoed those comments.
“In 2011, both teams had a wonderful game in the final,” he said through an interpreter. “And for women’s football in the world, I hope that we will have a wonderful game like the way we did in 2011.
“Of course, only God knows the outcome, and Japan needs to build up our power, and that’s what I take away from this game. And we’d like to prepare based on that takeaway.”
U.S. defender Ali Krieger likes the way her squad is performing heading into the final. The Americans have played, by far, their best soccer in their last two matches, wins over China and Germany.
“I’m excited,” Krieger said. “It’s somewhat of a rematch from four years ago, but you want to play the best teams and Japan proved themselves in the other side of the bracket.
“You always want a great game in the final, and that’s why we are here.
“It is fun to face Japan again, but we are really focusing on ourselves. We have good momentum, there’s a really positive feel around the team, and we will be ready for a great final.”