Japan, U.S. out to make World Cup history

The United States seeks a third FIFA Women's World Cup crown and Japan will attempt to become the first Asian nation to win the title when the two teams meet in Sunday's final from Frankfurt, Germany (CBC, CBCSports.ca, 2:30 p.m. ET).
United States' Rachel Buehler, left, and Japan's Yuki Nagasato battle for the ball during a recent friendly. On Sunday, they will battle for the Women's World Cup trophy. (Amy Sancetta/Associated Press)

Day 15, Match 32

Japan vs. United States, Final

Date and Location

July 17, Commerzbank-Arena, Frankfurt, Germany

Broadcast details

Live on CBC TV and CBCSports.ca (2:30 p.m. ET). Consult the full broadcast schedule.

What's at stake

The gold medal. The United States hasn't appeared in the final since it last won the tournament on home soil in 1999. Having also won the inaugural competition in 1991, the U.S. can become the first nation to win three World Cup titles with a victory on Sunday. This is Japan's fifth World Cup appearance, with its previous best showing coming in 1995 when it reached the quarter-finals. No team from outside Europe and North America has even won the World Cup.

Setting the stage

On paper, this is a mis-match.

Japan has never — repeat NEVER! — defeated the United States in 25 international matches between the two sides. As the No. 1 ranked team in the world, and with two World Cup titles to their credit, the Americans have to be considered the heavy favourite for Sunday's showdown.

The U.S. enters the match riding a wave of momentum after registering an amazing come-from-behind victory against Brazil in the quarter-finals, and then pegging back the challenge of a plucky French side in the semifinals.

The Americans have demonstrated a tremendous will to win, a never say die attitude, an unflappable belief in themselves, and an uncanny ability to overcome adversity on the field.

But Japan has shown great character at this tournament, too. The Japanese have carried themselves with great dignity and class every step of the way, playing for the folks back home who are still dealing with aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami that devastated the country in March.

Although Japan was one of the top seeds going into this tournament, many questioned their credentials, and didn't believe they were as good as their ranking suggested.

Japan, though, has proved everybody wrong, combining superb technical ability, fantastic organizational skills and a fearless attitude to overcome Germany and Sweden, two traditional powers of the women's game.

Can they slay one more giant? We'll soon find out.

Player to watch for Japan

Nahomi Kawasumi — The unheralded midfielder was limited to two appearances as a substitute (totalling 29 minutes) in the tournament before she scored a pair of goals (including the winner) in Japan's 3-1 victory over Sweden in the semifinals.

Player to watch for the United States

Abby Wambach — After a slow start to the tournament, the veteran forward has come alive the past three games, including scoring the equalizing goal in extra time and again in the penalty shootout against Brazil in the quarter-finals, and the winner against France in the semifinals.

The Japanese perspective

"The results at this tournament have given us a lot of confidence. We have momentum and always try to challenge teams, and now we want to try and beat the U.S.," midfielder Nahomi Kawasumi  told FIFA.com.

The American perspective

"The team's got this incredible energy now. Nobody can take what we've achieved away from us," midfielder Megan Rapinoe told FIFA.com.

World Cup head-to-head

The United States and Japan have met 25 times at senior level in international play, with the Americans winning 22 matches and drawing three times. The U.S. has outscored Japan 70-10 in those matches. The Americans have defeated Japan twice at the World Cup: 3-0 in the group stage of the 1991 tournament, and 4-0 in the quarter-finals in 1995.