The United States will learn their opponent in the Women's World Cup final tonight as heavily favored Japan takes on England in Edmonton. The marketers at Fox are getting something of a gift no matter who wins, as the final will either be a rematch of the 2011 decider or a USA vs. England game that sells itself thanks to history and shared language.
Japan is a fascinating case. They're an aesthete's dream, always looking to play one- and two-touch soccer and always thinking of being on the offensive. And yet, this is a team with no two-goal scorer in this tournament. Japan has won five straight games by either 1-0 or 2-1 scorelines, which means there's always an element of tension in their games. Even against sides they were markedly more talented than, the Nadeshiko have not been able to put an opponent away. The margins are getting increasingly smaller, too: Mana Iwabuchi's late game-winner to get them into this game was incorrectly allowed, as she was offside.
Nonetheless, it's hard to see England getting past them. The Three Lionesses are also good at scratching out close wins - four straight 2-1 results have gone in their favor - but they don't have Japan's quality with the ball or experience at this level. England is mostly in this game because of FIFA's cynical bracket, which was created specifically to give Canada the easiest path possible. As a result, the English have had to rely on a great goal against Norway by Lucy Bronze and a horrible start to the quarterfinal by the Canadians. Those aren't strong teams, and England's games against them were both essentially toss-ups.
Semifinal: Japan vs. England
Kickoff time: 7:00 p.m. Eastern
TV/Streaming: Fox Sports 1, NBC Universo, Fox Sports Go, Fox Soccer 2Go, NBC Universo Now, NBC Deportes En Vivo Extra
Venue: Commonwealth Stadium (Edmonton, Canada)
What are you drinking? I have a sore throat, so it's looking like iced tea. I'm sorry. I'm so sorry.
Hit the comments to share your pre-, in-, and post-game thoughts.