Johnston, Press, Chalupny and Boxx look to help USWNT to first trophy since 1999
By Gunnar Berndt
Photo credit: ISI Photos
Third Place Match: England (world no. 6) vs. Germany (world no. 1)
July 4 – Kickoff: 3 p.m. CT
Germany enters Saturday’s third place match as the favorite, having played a strong tournament that has included a 10-0 pounding of minnows Ecuador in the team’s tournament opener and a dominant 4-1 victory over fellow title contenders Sweden in the round of 16. That said, Head Coach Silvia Neid’s squad showed clear signs of vulnerability not only in the 2-0 defeat to the U.S. Women in the semifinals, but also in a 1-1 tie with Norway at the group stage and the quarterfinal win over France on penalty kicks.
Attacking aces like Celia Sasic and Anja Mittag, who have scored six and five times, respectively, will likely be too much for the opposition to handle, although motivation could be a factor after the Germans first missed a spot kick and then conceded twice in the disappointing loss to the United States. In addition, England features two world-class defenders in Lucy Bronze and Laura Bassett, who will look to redeem herself after redirecting the ball into her own net to give Japan a dramatic stoppage-time winner in the semifinals. Bronze, Karen Carney and Fara Williams share the team goal-scoring lead with two apiece.
Final: USA (world no. 2) vs. Japan (world no. 4)
July 5 – Kickoff: 6 p.m. CT
Red Stars: Julie Johnston (DEF), Lori Chalupny (MID-DEF), Shannon Boxx (MID), Christen Press (FWD) – all USA
Sunday’s final is a rematch of the 2011 title game, which saw Japan complete its surprise run with a victory on penalty kicks. Once more, the Americans enter the clash with their Asian counterparts as slight favorites, having defeated mighty Germany 2-0 in the semifinals and having posted five consecutive shutouts, thanks in part to the heroics of Golden Ball nominee and Chicago center back Julie Johnston.
With all of Japan’s five wins in the tournament having come by a single goal, the team’s efficiency may not be enough against a U.S. side that has outscored opponents 9-1 over the course of its six games and whose attack picked up steam in the recent meetings with China and Germany. Playing in her first World Cup, Red Stars striker Christen Press looks to add to her one tally, which came in the form of the game-winner in the team’s group-opening 3-1 victory over Australia. If Press were to score, it would likely be as a second-half substitute, as that is the role she has played in three of her four appearances thus far.
The Stars and Stripes offense is led by Carli Lloyd and Megan Rapinoe, who have found the net three times and twice, respectively, and have each added an assist. Meanwhile, Japan’s attack is spearheaded by undisputed team leader Aya Miyama, who has tallied two goals and two assists in the tournament. However, the greatest strength of Head Coach Norio Sasaki’s squad is its defense, which has only allowed three goals over the course of six matches.
Sunday’s title game will likely be the final shot at glory for 38-year-old Shannon Boxx, as winning the trophy has eluded the legendary U.S. midfielder on three previous occasions. Fellow Chicago standout Lori Chalupny is competing on the sport’s grandest stage for the second time, having returned to the USWNT in December 2014 after five years away due to head injuries. Both Boxx and Chalupny will be hoping to add to their one appearance apiece in the 2015 World Cup.
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