Alright, soccer fans and jingoistic bandwagon America-lovers... today is the day. At approximately 2:45 PM Eastern time, the 2011 FIFA Women's World Cup Final will kick off, after which the "team of destiny" will lift the World Cup. (ESPN's coverage begins at 2:00.) Which team is the "team of destiny," you ask? Funny you should mention that... but first things first.
Due to my proclivity for FanPost'ing during the Gold Cup in June, I had previously promised not to create any in-game threads for the WWC matches. There was a specific request for a thread for this game, however, and it is the World Cup Final after all... so here it is!
For a preview of the game, read on. If you're one of those tl;dr types, just go ahead and jump to the comments.
The final of this Women's World Cup pairs two teams that could both fairly be called a "team of destiny." The Japanese team, who had never previously even won a match in the knockout stages of a World Cup, have made a historic, unprecedented run to the World Cup Final, providing an inspirational "feel good" story for their nation, which has been recently devastated by a tsunami and subsequent nuclear disaster(s).
The United States team, on the other hand, came into this tournament with a mountain of "things to prove," in spite of technically being ranked #1 in the world. The USA has been a power in women's soccer literally from the beginning of the sport, but they haven't even appeared in a World Cup Final since 1999, and have been passed in prestige by both Brazil and Germany on the world stage. The heroes that became household names... Mia, Foudy, Akers, Chastain... all of those players are long gone, and we're now left with a group of women that have little name recognition and no personal experience with lifting a World Cup trophy. They have won an Olympic Gold Medal... but the World Cup is the biggest stage, and on that stage they have fallen woefully short in living up to their predecessors' legacy. With this tournament, however, they are starting to build that name, that inspirational story that stirs a nation... and they are finally coming into their own and restoring the United States of by God America back to the place where it belongs... at the top.
God bless America. (Via)
Both of these teams claim to be a "team of destiny." Of course, both can't be right and somebody has to win... so just for kicks, let's dig a little deeper and look at some head-to-head data, ok?
On paper, the gulf in pedigree between these two teams could hardly be wider or more dramatic.
This year's edition of the Women's World Cup is the sixth such tournament to be held. (The first was in 1991.) Over the previous five tournaments, the United States have won two, Germany have won two, and Norway have won one.
You might remember one of those victories (1999) rather vividly. (Via)
In addition to winning 2 previous World Cups in 1991 and 1999, the USA team have also won 3 Olympic Gold Medals (in '96, '04, and '08), and have won 6 of the 7 Women's Gold Cup tournaments in which they have participated. (The Gold Cup is the championship of our region, CONCACAF. Yes, I know the name sounds stupid, but please, feel free to say so again.)
For Japan, this game marks their first international final of any kind in a major international tournament. They have won zero World Cups, zero Olympic titles (in fact, zero Olympic medals of any kind), and zero AFC Women's Asian Cup titles.
The United States have made it to the semifinal stage of every World Cup, and are the only team to do so. Japan have never been to any World Cup semifinals, and before this tournament had never even won a game in the knockout stage.
But perhaps the most telling evidence is the head-to-head history between the two countries.
The United States have played Japan 25 times, and are 22-0-3 over that span. (In other words, they've never lost to Japan.) The USA and Japan have met twice previously in the Women's World Cup: a 3-0 win by the USA in group play in 1991 and a 4-0 win in the 1995 quarterfinals. And just two short months ago (on May 14 and May 18) as part of a "World Cup preparation series," the USA team beat Japan twice, both times by a 2-0 scoreline.
On paper, the United States should beat Japan handily. But this is literally the most important game in the entire women's soccer world. They don't play this game on paper. Japan are riding a crest of confidence and are strong in the knowledge of their nation's faith in them. The USA have built their reputation (and confidence) back by securing a massive win against Brazil+referee in the quarterfinals, and they are looking to add a third World Cup star to their jersey.
Third star goes here (points to the right of the other two stars). (Via)
This game is for all the marbles, folks. There is no trophy for second place. And to top it all off, we get to listen to the magnificent Ian Darke narrate it to us. Truly, this will a great day for soccer.