The United States will be aiming to end a four-year search for redemption when they take on Japan in Sunday’s Women’s World Cup final in Vancouver.
Their 2011 final defeat at the hands of the same opponents shocked the football world and still haunts several members of the US squad, including veteran striker Abby Wambach.
The 35-year-old, who could earn her 249th cap in Sunday’s showpiece, revealed that the pain of that penalty shoot-out reverse in Frankfurt has driven her ever since.
“For me it has been a constant reminder since July 17, 2011,” said Wambach.
“It has been the thing that has been within us that fuels our fire, motivates us to do that extra sprint, to make that extra flight, to extend and search for that ball whether you are in the box or saving the ball from going in our own net.
“It’s always there and that is what happens with heartbreak. Heartbreak never goes away, but now we have an opportunity.
“And it’s not about revenge or avenging that loss, because this team is different.
“I feel an air of confidence and we don’t overlook Japan for one second, because they are a very, very organised, good team.”
That famous 2011 upset was one of only two Japanese victories over the US in 31 meetings between the two sides, but Norio Sasaki’s team have won all of their games at this year’s tournament and also have an element of revenge to motivate them, having lost to the US in the 2012 Olympic final in London.
Defensive midfielder Rumi Utsugi did not feature in that 2-1 defeat at Wembley, but believes her team-mates will use the disappointment to motivate them ahead of what is expected to be a tight encounter.
“One thing that’s different from 2011 is that Japan now has the experience and the sorrow of losing in the Olympic final against USA,” she said.
“I’m so excited to face them in the final. All 11 [USA] players on the pitch have the mood, aura and awareness that they can make something happen. They know in their heart that they are special, and at this kind of tournament that can lead them to a good result.”
They will be up against a US outfit, however, that looked mightily impressive in emerging from the ‘group of death’ and comfortably downed world number one side Germany in the semi-finals.
Stand-out goalkeeper Hope Solo has conceded just one goal in six games, while at the other end, skipper Carli Lloyd will be looking for her fourth goal of the tournament.
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