Analysing the Olympic Final
Team USA will be out to avenge last year's World Cup defeat to Japan, but the Nadeshiko have more than an even chance.
It is fitting that the two best international teams in women's football will contest the Olympic Final on Friday morning (4.45am AEST on Fox Sports). This much anticipated 2011 World Cup Final rematch is the ideal finale to what has been a compelling Olympic Women's Football Tournament.
Team USA will be out to avenge last year's World Cup defeat to Japan while the Nadeshiko will be motivated to cement their place as a true world power in women's football. The game has all the makings of a classic.
Although both teams have their own distinct characteristics, to say this game will be a complete contrast of styles is perhaps too simplistic. The USA, renowned for their power and pace, has now added skill and sophistication to their play. On the other hand Japan, who are acknowledged as technically the most gifted team in the world, has significantly toughened up and no longer exhibit a soft underbelly
Despite the contrast in styles one element is prevalent in both adversaries; that is a steely determination to win matches regardless of performance or dominance in possession. This phenomenon has always been part of US culture but something only recently transparent in the Japanese team.
Although the outcome is difficult to predict, based on tournament performance to date, I would say the US has been more convincing and start as slight favourites.
They have an array of players capable of scoring goals, depth in the squad with impact players coming off the bench and the ability to come back after trailing in matches against quality opposition. They also had a convincing confidence boosting win against Japan just prior to the Olympics. They do display defensive frailties, however their pacy back four supported by arguably the world's best goalkeeper have on the whole covered over these potential cracks.
Japan on the other hand has found it more difficult to score goals and performed less consistently than expected.
They now play with an inordinate amount of confidence individually and collectively and have developed a strong winning culture. They no longer get intimidated or flustered and rarely concede goals. When you combine these qualities with their sublime technical skills you certainly wouldn't write them off.
One thing that can be assured is that this final will be an outstanding advertisement for women's football and will no doubt produce a hero, with Sawa, Miyama, Rapinoe or Wambach being the favourites.