Starting Tactical Lineup (from FIFA.com)
PRE – So here it is. The rubber match in what has turned into the best rivalry in women’s soccer. The U.S. has to be considered the favorite after easing past Germany in the semis and having looked an entirely different team after the enforced changes before the quarterfinal. They haven’t lacked for chances against Japan in past encounters, it’s just a matter of making the most of them now. Japan has shown moments of vulnerability all throughout this tournament but have made teams pay for not making the most of their chances. Can they pull another rabbit out of their hat and retain their title?
3’ – GOAL – United States (Lloyd) – Dream start or nightmare start depending on your persuasion. Off a corner, the U.S. delivers low, with Ohno missing her interception. Lloyd swoops in and hammers it low and beyond Kaihori for the game’s first goal.
5’ – GOAL – United States (Lloyd) – Another set piece calamity for Japan. Heath wins a free kick in a dangerous spot, functioning almost as a short corner. The delivery goes to the near post, with Johnston backheeling into the area. It bounces around the area, and Lloyd pounces on space in between two Japanese defenders to scrap it home. An unbelievable American start.
14’ – GOAL – United States (Holiday) – The trophy is coming back to America. Krieger drives a cross into the box, which, for some reason, Iwashimizu tries to clear with a stooping header. This just pops it up into the air, with Holiday running onto it and volleying it home. Great finish, suicidal defending.
16’ – GOAL – United States (Lloyd) – This is like something from another planet. Japan gives it away cheaply near midfield, and Lloyd takes a few dribbles around a Japanese player before letting fly from the halfway line. Kaihori is off her line and can’t get there as it bounces off the inside of the left post and across the goal for a hat trick with barely a quarter of an hour on the clock gone. Unbelievable goal, and this is one of the best individual displays in a final for any sport. Ever.
18’ – And it should be 5-0. Despite being doubled up, Rapinoe gets down the flank and passes to Klingenberg. Her cross to Carli Lloyd is excellent, but Lloyd misses the target for once with her header.
23’ – Briefest sign of life from the Japanese attack, as Sakaguchi tries her luck from range. The shot dips and looks to be heading wide, but Solo comes out to dive for it for no reason in particular.
24’ – Long ball for Morgan who outraces Iwashimizu to the bouncing ball near the endline before cutting back inside and getting some space to shoot. Said shot is a tame effort right at Kaihori though. It’s been that type of tournament for Morgan.
27’ – GOAL – Japan (Ogimi) – Start of the great escape? OK, probably not. But Naho does well to get the ball wide before cutting inside and crossing to Ogimi. The forward posts up and spins through a falling Johnston before rifling a shot past Solo. 4-1.
28’ – Right back at the other end, Morgan fires into the sidenetting. As it turns out, that Japan goal left the U.S. just short of breaking the WWC shutout streak.
29’ – Crazy, crazy sequence, and Japan should only be down by two goals! Japan finds space between the lines, and a cross towards the near post is headed straight up into the air by the U.S. It ends up with Naho at the far post, and she squares back through the six. It evades Solo and the defense, and if a Japanese player was standing on the near post, it’d be 4-2. But there isn’t, and Japan has to play it back to Miyama, who hits a tame shot right at Solo.
33’ – SUB – Time to roll the dice for Japan, as they bring on Homare Sawa for Iwashimizu, who it has to be said, had an absolute nightmare.
39’ – SUB – Aggressive subbing from Japan, as Naho comes out for Yuika Sugasawa. I don’t doubt Sasaki often, but surprised to see Naho come off as she had been a spark in attack thus far.
42’ – Morgan has a penalty shout turned down, and right after a cross is headed by Lloyd towards goal. It’s deflected off a Japanese defender for another corner. Lloyd really wants #4.
HT – Barring the greatest comeback in soccer history, we’re forty-five minutes from a coronation. The U.S. blitzed Japan early, drowning them under a torrent of goals and taking advantage of some atypically shocking defending from the holders. The Asian side has calmed down, but it looks to be far too little, far too late, even if they have clawed one back.