The Women’s World Cup has really raised the profile of the Women’s game around the world, and it has been a tournament filled with drama and excitement. There can only be one ultimate winner though, and the 2015 World Cup Final will be a repeat of the final in Germany four years ago, between USA Women and Japan Women.
The Japanese have won every game en route to the final in defence of their title, but USA Women have only failed to win once, and saw off the challenge of fellow tournament favourites Germany in the semi-final. They look ominous in their bid to win a third World Cup after going 16 years without one. However, it could have been so very different were both sides not presented with a large portion of luck to get through their respective semi-finals.
USA Women took on Germany Women in a game which many predicted pre-tournament would be the final. They were the top two in the betting going into the competition and both had looked imperious up to this point, with only France giving the Germans a scare by taking them to penalties. In an ironic twist, it was penalties which would prove Germany’s undoing in the semi-final against USA.
Germany were awarded a second-half penalty on the hour mark, but the tournament’s top scorer, Celia Sasic, failed to convert. Within nine minutes USA had won a penalty at the other end, and when Carli Lloyd hit the back of the net there was only going to be one winner. USA went on to add a second when Germany were pressing for an equalizer, but the game swung on those two spot kicks, and Germany were left to rue what might have been.
Japan played their semi-final against an impressive England side, who had already performed above expectations. However, it was the underdogs who took the game to the World Cup holders, and England had Japan on the back foot for large periods of the game. Japan won a breakaway penalty in the 33rd minute which was duly converted by Aya Miyama, but England were back in it when they won a penalty of their own shortly before half-time. Fara Williams drew them level, and the Lionesses went on to dominate the second period, going close on several occasions. It was Japan who finished the game celebrating though, as England’s Laura Bassett scored the most unfortunate of own goals deep into stoppage time to gift victory to the Japanese.
The Final, 00:00 (BST) Monday 6th July
USA Women v Japan Women
The final kicks off at midnight on Sunday night/Monday morning, and if you’re staying up to watch it then USA Women represent a very decent bet at odds approaching evens.
USA Women – -118 with William Hill
Japan Women – +440 with Betvictor
Draw – +260 with Bwin
USA may not have been at their best throughout the competition, but this team is incredibly strong and experienced, and it is testament to their ability that they’ve reached the final without yet reaching their full potential. They topped their group, as expected, with wins against Nigeria and Australia, although they dropped points in a draw with Sweden. They got into gear in the second round with a comfortable 2-0 success over Colombia, but the 1-0 quarter-final victory over China was somewhat laboured. They were given a lifeline when Germany missed the penalty in the semi-final, but they grabbed it with both hands to go on and win the game. Many of the squad played in that 2011 final defeat to Japan, and they will be desperate to put the demons to bed by reversing the result here.
Japan were lacklustre against England, and although they won, it was a barely deserved victory. The Japanese were particularly effective on the counter-attack, which is a feature of their game, but they looked vulnerable in defence every time England ran at them. They topped their group with 9 points and the minimum of fuss, before beating Netherlands 2-1 in the second round. The quarter-final saw them get the better of Australia with a late 87th minute winner, and they left it even later in the semi-final against England. Their record of winning every game in the tournament is to be respected, but those two recent wins both had an element of fortune and the luck might just run out this weekend.
Third Place Play-off, 21:00 (BST) Saturday 4th July
England Women v Germany Women
Both England and Germany Women will be despondent after missing out on the final, but both will have to raise themselves to play in the third place play-off, scheduled for Saturday evening.
Germany Women – -183 with Bwin
Germany women are clear favourites, but they have under-performed in this competition, and are not worth a punt at such a short price. England have over-performed by reaching this stage, but it remains to be seen how much they will be affected by such a cruel end to the semi-final.
These third place play-off games are usually non-events as neither side particularly wants to play, and there are some huge prices on offer about the draw. This is a speculative punt, so small stakes are advised, as anything can happen in these types of games. However, with both teams feeling deflated after going out at the final hurdle, this game could be a slow-paced affair with little urgency on show. Much will also depend on how well England can recover physically after the Japan performance, as they worked tirelessly in that game. But the Lionesses have confounded expectations time and again this summer, and the price on a draw is worth a punt on value grounds.
Women’s World Cup Final:
USA Women – -118 with William Hill
Third Place Play-off:
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