CHRISTIAN RADNEDGE in VANCOUVER: July 17, 2011, is the date etched on the mind of United States star striker Abby Wambach as her side prepare to face Japan in today’s FIFA Women’s World Cup Final in Vancouver.
The date to which Wambach keeps referring was when the US twice blew a lead over Japan at the 2011 FIFA World Cup final in Germany before losing on penalties.
“For me, it’s a constant reminder,” she said. “It’s been a constant reminder since July 17, 2011.”
Her focus is on erasing that memory with a new date of July 5, 2015, for the right reasons.
Wambach has had a stellar career including a gold medal at the 2012 Olympics, beating Japan in the final. But that moment was not enough to forget 2011 as Wambach has never been world champion. The US have not won the tournament since 1999.
Jill Ellis’s side take on the reigning champions at a point where they have failed to wholly convince critics so far but have not done anything other than win every single match in Canada.
The US have seen their performances grow and grow throughout culminating in a dominant 2-0 dispatching of favourites Germany in the semi-finals.
But Wambach has not played too much of a part in their success so far; she has only played 14 minutes in the previous two matches.
Ellis explained it was something the two had talked about before.
She said: “We had early conversations and from day one. Abby wants to win a World Cup. She’s committed to doing whatever it takes.”
In Vancouver on the eve of the final, in frontof an expected 51,000, Ellis reported no new injury concerns which will be of relief to the US fans flocking over the border to the game including Vice-President Joe Biden.
Japan coach Norio Sasaki admitted his side may not have the physical attributes of their opponents but were capable of beating them in other ways.
He said: “We don’t have the power, but we have the skills, desire & a network among the players – we have quick switching and can counter.
“In the end, who can be tenacious, who can take use of the strength of its own team – that will make the difference.”
The strength of the Japan team has been glimpsed at moments in Canada and they are capable of scoring some fantastic goals, especially Mizuho Sakaguchi’s against Holland.
But will their side be ready for the challenge of a USA team desperate for revenge?
Wambach put it simply: “The truth is that I just want to be a world champion”.
The veteran striker, who has racked up 183 goals for her country, has stated before that this will be her last World Cup. So too has Japan’s own legend Homare Sawa, who has been making cameo appearances so far in this tournament.
Whatever the result on Sunday, it will be a chance to bid farewell to two leading lights of the women’s game.
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