AP PhotoUnited States players warm up during a training session in preparation for the final match against Japan for the Women's Soccer World Cup Final in Frankfurt, Germany, Saturday, July 16, 2011. Japan is playing in the first final of a major tournament after stunning two-time defending World Cup champion Germany, the pre-tournament favorite, in extra time in the quarterfinals. The Nadeshiko have never beaten the Americans, with draws in 2000, 2003 and 2004 the best they've been able to manage in 25 games. AP PhotoUnited States head coach Pia Sundhage talks to the media during a training session in preparation for Sunday's final match against Japan of the Women's Soccer World Cup in Frankfurt, Germany, Saturday, July 16, 2011. The Americans will have a significant height advantage on Japan, with five of the expected starters taller than the 1.71-meter Saki Kumagai, Japan's tallest player. Japan's ball-handling skills are exquisite, drawing comparisons to Barcelona for its lightning quick passes and slick combination play. Sundhage has tried to implement a more possession-oriented style with the Americans, wanting plays to develop through the midfield rather than simply sending long balls up to the forwards. AP PhotoThe World Cup trophy for the Women's Soccer World Cup 2011 is exhibited at a press conference in Frankfurt Saturday July 16, 2011.


Japan is clearly driven by a greater purpose, hoping its success at the World Cup can provide some emotional relief for a nation still reeling from the March 11 earthquake and tsunami. Japan has drawn comparisons to Barcelona for its lightning quick passes and slick combination play, and they often look as if they're playing a game of keepaway, holding onto the ball for long stretches of time. Playing in her fifth World Cup, the 32-year-old Sawa has looked ageless, scoring four goals to share the lead in the tournament with Marta. Abby Wambach is one of the best players in the world in the air, and she's scored two goals off headers in the past two games.
But the Japanese had no problems challenging bigger and stronger Germany, getting whistled for four yellow cards — the only yellows they've received this tournament. The final between USA and Japan is scheduled for Sunday.The move gave the Americans more flow and creativity, perfectly illustrated by their third goal, when Rapinoe found a streaking Alex Morgan with a cross that was placed perfectly behind the defense.
It's just not the kind of soccer we want to play," said Abby Wambach, who has scored on headers in each of the United States' last two games. They display a banner reading "To our Friends Around the World — Thank You for Your Support," after every game, and Sasaki inspired his players before the quarterfinal by showing them pictures of the devastation.


A surprise starter in the semifinal after playing a total of just 29 minutes in the first four games, she scored twice, including a gorgeous lob over Hedvig Lindahl from about 35 yards out. Two months later, the teams will play again on Sunday — in the Women's World Cup final. It got bogged down in the midfield against France until Sundhage brought Megan Rapinoe on, putting her on the left flank and moving Lauren Cheney inside.
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