U.S. vs. Japan: How they match up in Women’s World Cup final

England's Alex Scott, left, and Japan's Aya Miyama battle for the ball during the second half of Japan's semifinal victory in the Women's World Cup on Wednesday.

England’s Alex Scott, left, and Japan’s Aya Miyama battle for the ball during the second half of Japan’s semifinal victory in the Women’s World Cup on Wednesday.

(Jason Franson / Associated Press)


A quick look at who has the edge in Sunday’s Women’s World Cup final:

Attacking: Japan’s passing game is the best in the world and it will give the U.S. fits. Plus, the Japanese share the scoring as much as they share the ball, with captain Aya Miyama the only player to score more than one of the team’s nine goals. Yet despite all that movement, Japan is averaging only 3.5 shots on goal a game, fewest of any team that made it past the second round. The U.S., meanwhile, appears to have found its stride offensively after freeing midfielder Carli Lloyd to join the attack. And the U.S., with a decided height advantage, will have a huge edge on set pieces. Edge: U.S.

Defending: Japan’s well-organized defense has been stellar in this tournament, giving up only two goals from open play. The Japanese used a three-woman rotation in goal during pool play before settling on Ayumi Kaihori, who is one of three players nominated for the Golden Glove award as the tournament’s best keeper. The U.S. has been even better. Its young back line has given up only 13 shots on goal and keeper Hope Solo — another Golden Glove nominee — has stopped all but one, posting five consecutive shutouts and going 513 minutes without allowing a score. Edge: U.S.


Bench: It doesn’t really matter who starts for the U.S. because its bench is deep with game-changing players. In the quarterfinal with China, for example, the suspensions of Megan Rapinoe and Lauren Holiday led to starts for Morgan Brian and Amy Rodriguez and both played well. Then in the semifinal against Germany, Kelley O’Hara came on for the U.S. in the 75th minute and scored the final goal nine minutes later. The U.S. is so deep, Abby Wambach, international soccer’s all-time leader scorer, has started only three games. Japan employs its bench too — it’s the only team in the tournament that has used all 23 players. Edge: U.S.

Intangibles: These teams are two of the oldest in the tournament. But they’re also two of the most experienced, with each roster featuring 14 players who were in uniform when Japan and the U.S. met in the last World Cup final four years ago. And both will be highly motivated to send legendary players off with a win: Japan, with Homare Sawa, who has played in six World Cups; and the U.S. with Wambach and 40-year-old Christie Rampone, the oldest player in Women’s World Cup history. But the biggest factor might be revenge. In 2011 Japan beat the U.S. in a final the Americans thought they should have won. “We have a lot of players who were part of that day and we all know how that feels,” Lloyd said. Edge: U.S.

Prediction: The Women’s World Cup trophy returns to the U.S. for the first time in 16 years after a 2-0 win.