A Look Back At The 2011 Women's World Cup Final
Saki Kumagai and Alex Morgan fight for the ball in the 2011 Womens World Cup final in Frankfurt / photo courtesy vettri.net Photo Gallery

A Look Back At The 2011 Women's World Cup Final

The U.S. Women take on old rivals Japan once again in a World Cup Final clash this Sunday. We look at what got them there, once again.

Lauren Maharaj

The backdrop to the 2011 Women's World Cup final was a flurry of differences for both teams.

For the U.S Women's National team there stood two prolific moments of national glory - winning the World Cup in 1991 and triumphantly at home, in 1999. For Japan, there stood a side just emerging from an era of regeneration.

Internationally the Japanese women's World Cup record only saw them reach the quarter-final in 1995 and reach only the group stage in all four of their following appearances. Yet in 2011, a golden era dawned upon a Japanese side, who struggled internationally in the past and they faced their most formidable opponent yet: the Stars and Stripes.

The match began aggressively, with most of the attacking front coming from the mighty United States. Several chances by Pia Sundage's women were denied by the resistant Japanese defence, but blood was eventually drawn.

In the 68th minute, after receiving a wonderful ball by Megan Rapinoe, Alex Morgan opened space and fired a bullet into the back of the net to make it 1-0. Despite the tension in Frankfurt declining with the lead, Japan replied quickly with a goal from Aya Miyama with ten minutes to go.

Extra-time dawned upon the two teams and the stakes grew to an ultimate high. In the 104th minute, Abby Wambach made a brilliant header to bring the scoreline to 2-1, but only 13 precious minutes later, Japan's all-time goal scorer, Homare Sawa replied and set the game at a decisive 2-2.

Close to 50,000 in the Commerzbank-Arena awaited what can be some of the most cruel moments in football - penalties.

Shannon Boxx took the first hit for the Americans and with her miss came an onslaught of unfortunate events. Only Abby Wambach was able to find the back of the net that night as the Japanese shot out the Americans 3-1 and lifted the World Cup for the first time in their history

The 2011 World Cup final not only stunned the Americans, but gave birth to unprecedented success for the Japanese (which to this day could continue). But the Americans have a rare opportunity on their hands - a chance to avenge their fight in 2011.

Both teams are throughly experienced on the grand stage. While the Americans have plenty of athletic juice and power, the Japanese attain incredible technique.

With both sides meeting for the third time on one of the world's greatest stages - twice in the World Cup, once in the Olympic final - it's fair to state that both sides are capable of playing well under immense pressure. Both sides have players of record breaking stature and both always show their best in the games which matter the most.