WWC Final: Japan

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It’s two World Cup Finals in a row for Japan and their controlling football hasn’t really been challenged so far. A final against the all-round brilliant Americans is a different prospect though so let The Football Sack take you through everything you need to know about the Nadeshiko.

The story of far

Japan’s World Cup campaign has been a beacon of controlling, possession-based football that opposition teams have failed to break down. England gave it a red hot crack in the semi-final before a disastrous own-goal in the game’s final moments put Japan through to the final. That’s about as close as Norio Sasaki’s side has come to losing.

With a strong defence and solid midfield movement the Japanese have gone undefeated in their World Cup defence, topping the Group Stage without dropping a point and making light work of the Dutch and Australians before overcoming the resolute Brits in the road to meeting the United States for a 2011 Final rematch. While the results don’t demonstrate any spectacular thrashings, the way in which Japan has controlled their games and oppositions has been indicative of a squad that knows its game like the back of its collective hand.

They’ll beat the USA because…

Japan will overcome the USA because of their stubborn game plan – the likes of which has been insurmountable for their previous opponents – and because of their ability to absorb pressure for long periods of time. For almost the entire second half of the semi-final the English thrust forward at the reigning champions only for resolute defending to save the day time and time again. The same can be said for the Australians in the quarter final.

They can attack when the need to, those Japanese, but it’s when they’re nullifying their foes’ attacks that they’re at their best. In a game as big as this expect them to be all over the Americans up front.

They’ll lose to the USA because…

Revenge is sweet. It’s very sweet in sport. Four years ago the unfancied Japanese took the World Cup away from the USA in a shattering penalty shootout and it’s a favour that The Stars and Stripes will want to return with change. Expect a fired up American outfit to go hard and fast at Japan in the final third in much the same way the English did, only this side has the skill to make it work. If Japan doesn’t control the midfield game, which is capable of occurring, they will have to put up with a lot of shots. This could be their undoing.

Furthermore, Japan has struggled to score regularly in the tournament and the Americans have the best defensive record so seeing how the Japanese will get through Hope Solo in goal isn’t clear.

Will they win the World Cup?

Yes, but it’s a cautious yes. Japan will overcome the USA because they are such a resolute, skilful side. Having said that, Japan’s road to the final has been a lot easier than the Americans and apart from the English they haven’t really been challenged. Perhaps they haven’t been challenged because they have been so good or perhaps they just haven’t come up against a side good enough to challenge them seriously. Either way, it’s a good position to be in and the Japanese will be just too good for the Americans on the day.

Best moment of the tournament so far?

It’s tempting to pop in Laura Bassett’s own goal in the semi-final but it’s hardly fair for Japan to claim it as theirs. However the euphoria that followed as the final whistle blew just minutes later was something to behold as the Japanese squad embraced each other to celebrate their passage to the Final. Over the last five years women’s football in Japan has taken off and the squad in Canada has generated quite a following. Two World Cup Finals in a row is just reward but they won’t be totally happy until they’re lifting that trophy again.

Key Player

Mana Iwabuchi has developed a bit of a reputation as an impact substitute of dramatic proportions, showing the world against Australia and the English what she can do when her fresh legs come up against tired ones. Twice in a row she came on and caused all sorts of problems for defenders with her pace and tenacity in the attacking third. She doesn’t like to give the ball up and she gets in great positions. With Sasaki almost certain to use her in the same role, the Americans may want to keep a defender on bench ready to counter the tactic.

Injuries/Suspensions

All clear since the semi-final

Prediction

Two sides that are so good defensively lends itself to a goalless draw. Extra-time won’t help things and this one will go to penalties where once again Japan will break American hearts. The Canadians in the crowd will love it.

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