Being the last country to qualify for the 2011 World Cup in Germany certainly hasn't stopped the latest edition of the United States woman's soccer team as Sunday afternoon they are set to take on Japan in the final in Frankfort, Germany. The United States will be seeking their third World Cup title and first since capturing the title in 1999. For Japan, it would mark the first triumph ever for an Asian country.
The U.S. women seem to be hitting their stride at the right time, in part because of the play of goalkeeper Hope Solo as well as the heady determination of Abby Wambach.
The two storylines are quite compelling as the United States looks to capture the world's top spot after a 12-year drought, in a country that often has identity problems with the world's most popular sport, while the Japanese team is carrying the weight of a nation on their backs after the earthquake and ensuing tsunami that rocked the nation in March.
The United States has benefited from a dramatic back against the wall situation in the quarterfinal win against Brazil, before pulling away late from France in the semifinals, while Japan knocked out the host country and World Cup favorite Germany in the quarters and Sweden in the semi's. As of the March FIFA rankings, the United States is ranked first overall, while Japan is currently ranked fourth in the world.
The two squads have faced off three times already in 2011, with the Americans winning 2-1 in March, in a match that took place in Portugal before also taking a pair of 2-0 decisions in back-to-back May matches held in the United States. Striker Amy Rodriguez had a goal in each match.
Expect a highly competitive match this time around, after all Japan did knock off Sweden in the semi's, a team that had beaten the United States 2-1 just 11 days ago.
Japan features Sawa, whose four goals are tied for the lead mark in the year's tournament, while the United States will again be lead by Wambach who will look to use her size (5'11') as an advantage over a much smaller Japanese squad.
Coverage from Germany begins at 1 pm (CST) on ESPN.