2016 U-20 Women's World Cup - Japan vs USA Preview: The battle for bronze

It is the first of the last two fixtures, two big names in the women's game meet for the first time for third place. But who will take a medal?

2016 U-20 Women's World Cup - Japan vs USA Preview: The battle for bronze
Image credit: Getty Images

All but one day and two games is left in the competition, the first of the two will decide who goes home with at least a medal, albeit an alloy prize.

Japan and former Champions USA will have their showdown in the midst of the Papa New Guinea heat and humidity, with their match for third place kicking off at 4pm in Port Moresby.

This will also be the first time that the two heavyweights go head to head at this level of competition.

Weighing up the teams

Going on history of performances in the tournament, the Stars and Stripes should have this wrapped up. They are more successful at this level than their opposition. It is a strange pairing as Japan at this level do not seem to cut it while they thrive at U-17 and senior level.

However, performances in PNG for the USA have been lacklustre at time, though they have mastered the art of late goals that rescue the games. First against Mexico to snatch their 1-0 lead and place in the semi-final and once again in the next stage against Korea DPR - this time they were to be bettered by an extra time goal.

Japan have played their traditional way; a lot of team play with at times a high goal scoring. However, they were silenced by two of the European teams: Spain in the group stage and France in the semi-final. Tight-knit defence seems to be their kryptonite.

This could be a worry as USA held the French to a goalless draw in the opening group game and that was a matter of who has a stronger back four, both proving to be pretty solid.

Notable players

As this match is set to be filled with well oiled defensive play, goal scorers are key. For Japan, Mama Ueno is their top goal scorer. Not only can she find the back of the net but she is able to force her way through back fours and allow the creative midfield of the Young Nadeshiko to come out to play. Guarding Casey Murphy's goal will be Kaleigh ReihlMaddie Elliston who made a last ditch block to keep US in the competition and Taylor Otto - they have all made five appearances in the tournament.

Going forward for , captain Mallory Pugh is obviously a highlight with her creativity, pace and clinical edge when it comes to slotting goals home. Pugh is top goalscorer with three goals. Her wealth of experience has guided the team through the tournament positively, despite an early exit by US standards. Alongside her, Ally Watt is a huge threat having already bagged two goals in the tournament.

Japan will be well guarded by a defence that have only leaked four goals throughout the entire competition. Their backline is well versed in this competition, Hikaru Kitagawa has made 10 appearances all together. In addition to the veteran who leads the back four Ruka Norimatsu has featured in eight games and Chika Hirao in seven. Not only do they have the caps under their belt, but for the three players their team has come out winners the majority of times.

In the midfield area the Stars and Stripes have found balance with Katie Cousins looking to be an effective holder, managing to work between defensive and attacking roles while Ashley Sanchez runs the flanks, providing service to the strikers.

If the Young Nadeshiko come out of the game on top, they will match their best record of winning the bronze in 2012 whereas the US have already dipped under the expectations that winning three titles sets.