The 2015 Women's World Cup final is set after a shocking own goal from England sent Japan to a rematch of the 2011 final against the United States.
An own goal from Laura Bassett in the 92nd minute is the latest goal scored in a World Cup semifinal that broke a 1-1 deadlock in England's first final four appearance.
Japan is looking for their second consecutive World Cup title and will have to face a familiar foe to do so. Continue below for the World Cup final schedule with previews and predictions for this heavyweight tilt.
|2015 FIFA Women's World Cup Final Schedule|
|Sunday, July 5, 7 p.m. EDT||United States||Japan||Fox||United States 1-0|
World Cup Final Preview
Like Yogi Berra said, its deja vu all over again as the United States and Japan meet in the Women's World Cup final for the second straight time. But their rivalry has not just been limited to the World Cup, as ESPN Stats & Info points out.
Japan put their 100 percent record on the line one last time in the final, looking to beat the United States yet again. By the quarterfinals in this tournament, they were the only team that had won every match. They keep things close, however. All six of their wins have come by a single goal, with the last two coming after the 87th minute.
The United States might have England to thank after the Three Lionesses have shown a way to beat Japan. High pressure, physical play and an aggressive attack neutralize Japan's ability to move the ball, which they use to create priceless chances. They were putting on a clinic throughout the World Cup with a blistering pace and effortless cohesion before they ran into England.
While Japan seem to be slowing down, the United States are heating up at the right time, showing their best soccer in the semifinals against the top-ranked team in the world in Germany.
They have the ability to play in different styles, bruising teams when physicality is needed or dissecting defenses with finesse when playmaking is called for. They'll need that physical presence to slow Japan down.
If Japan do dominate play, the U.S. contain a defense that has allowed just one goal in the entire tournament. Despite conceding a penalty that Celia Sasic wound up missing in the semifinal, defender Julie Johnston has been a rock at the center-back position, and CBS Sports' Sam Vecenie views her as more than America's best defender.
Their last line of defense, Hope Solo, has been the goalkeeper of the tournament. Though she has only faced 12 shots in six games, her 92.3 percent save rate leads all keepers that have played more than one game.
Both sides have scored nine goals in the tournament, but Japan have conceded two more than the U.S. Still, both teams' defensive records are impressive given their path to the final.
Japan had to get through the Netherlands, Australia and now England, ranked 12th, 10th and sixth, respectively, to get to the final. The United States had to navigate their way through the group of death, which included matches against Australia and No. 5 Sweden just to make it to the knockout stage. Waiting for them was 28th-ranked Colombia and 16th-ranked China before they defeated No. 1 Germany in the semifinals.
For the United States, it will be crucial for a quick start in the final. Taking control of the pace early will not allow Japan to settle into their system. In order to do so, look for the United States to start Alex Morgan up top with midfielder Megan Rapinoe bombing in behind her to add an attacking presence. While 22-year-old Morgan Brian can clog the midfield in a holding role, she'll allow Carli Lloyd, America's leading scorer this tournament, to play freely in order to support the United States forces up front.
America's talent will be too much for Japan to handle after they have shown they can be beaten in these last few games. With revenge for the 2011 World Cup also on their minds, America will dominate possession and out-chance Japan. But like they did toward the beginning of the tournament, that final ball, paired with Japanese last-ditch defending, will make it difficult to find the back of the net. But the midfield tandem of Rapinoe and Lloyd will bring the U.S. a winner for their third World Cup.
Stats courtesy of FIFA.com