WOLFSBURG, GERMANY - JULY 06: Hope Solo, goalkeeper of USA reacts during the FIFA Women's World Cup 2011 Group C match between Sweden and USA at Wolfsburg Arena on July 6, 2011 in Wolfsburg, Germany. (Photo by Martin Rose/Getty Images)

Women's World Cup 2011: Japan Downs USA In Penalty Shootout

The USA and Japan battle for the 2011 Women's World Cup Final on Sunday at 11:45 a.m.

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49 Total Updates since July 6, 2011
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Women's World Cup Final, USA Vs. Japan Score: Japan Takes Title With Penalty Shootout Win

With the way the 2011 Women's World Cup had been going for the US Women's National Team, you almost expected the final match of the tournament to come down to the wire. After Alex Morgan put the USA up in the second half with a wonderfully struck goal, it looked like the US, who had been dominating the run of play, would finally survive a game without needing a late hero. But Japan answered, striking a goal of their own while taking advantage of a US miscue to tie the game and force extra time.

As the 30 minutes of extra time began, the USA and Japan appeared tight, both on the edge while worried about conceding an early goal. But just before the whistle to signal the half, Morgan broke free on the left flank, made a run to the byline and whipped a cross into the six-yard-box. As she's been all tournament long, Abby Wambach was there, ready to put a head to the incoming ball. And with that, the USA had the lead as Wambach's powerful header slammed into the back of the net.

All the USA had to do was protect in the second half of extra time to bring home a third Women's World Cup. The shaky back-line of the USA created some drama of their own throughout the final 15 minutes. A failed clearance in the box left Solo out of position early, and Japan nearly equalized. Somehow, the USA was able to side-step a dangerous chance, but the tense moments weren't over.

Another excellent through-ball in the 115th minute caught Hope Solo off her line, leaving Kinga with an open net after she'd chipped the America keeper. Christine Rampone was there to save the day, however, clearing the bouncing ball off the line and preventing the equalizing goal. But on the ensuing corner, Japan found the back of the net as Homare Sawa threaded the needle for the game-tying goal. Her late equalizer forced a penalty shootout, putting Hope Solo in the spotlight once again. It was 1999, and the team Solo has been trying to get out of the shadow of, all over again.

Shannon Boxx stepped up first, went right and saw her shot just barely tipped away by the foot of Kaihori. Solo guess wrong on Miyama's strike, and the US was at a disadvantage down 1-0. Carli Lloyd was next, and skied her penalty kick over the bar, putting the USA on life-support in the shootout. But Solo kept them alive, parrying the next shot away after diving to her right.

With Japan up 1-0, Tobin Heath stepped up with a chance to finally get on the board, but also saw her shot sent away. The penalty shootout start for the USA was simply disastrous. Solo got a hand on the next kick, only to see it trickle through to give Japan a 2-0 lead.

Abby Wambach kept the USA alive with the first goal in the shootout, but all Japan needed was one more. Sake Kumagai stepped up against Solo, went high and finished the USA's dream run.

The Women's World Cup Final was superb, but ended in heartbreak for Solo and the USA as Japan took the title in a penalty shootout, 2-2 (3-1).

For more on the tournament, be sure to visit SB Nation Soccer's  2011 Women's World Cup StoryStream. Stay with this StoryStream for more on Hope Solo and the United States Womens National Team.

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2011 Women's World Cup Finals, USA Vs. Japan Lineups: Megan Rapinoe In For Amy Rodriguez

US Women's National Team head coach Pia Sundhage is not afraid to shuffle the lineup or make tactical changes on a whim and Sunday's 2011 Women's World Cup Finals is no exception. Out is Amy Rodriguez, a mainstay at the forward position. Rodriguez has yet to score a goal in the Women's World Cup, and Sundhage felt the USA needed possession against a Japan squad that plays controlled soccer.

Lauren Cheney will start up-top, though the US will likely play more of a 4-5-1 formation instead of a 4-4-2. Megan Rapinoe will slide into the midfield, joining the starting lineup after playing much of the Women's World Cup as a sub. The rest of the lineup remains unchanged, though Amy LePeilbet is back after sitting out due to a red card.

Here are the lineups, courtesy of Grant Wahl.

USA lineup: Solo; Krieger, Rampone, Buehler, LePeilbet; O'Reilly, Boxx, Lloyd, Rapinoe; Wambach, Cheney.

Japan lineup: Kaihori; Kinga, Iwashimizu, Kumagai, Sameshima; Ohno, Sakaguchi, Sawa, Miyama; Kawasumi, Ando.

Look for Rodriguez and/or Alex Morgan to come on late, as has been the case for Morgan throughout the tournament. The USA and Japan take the field in the 2011 Women's World Cup Finals at 11:45 a.m. on ESPN.

For more on the tournament, be sure to visit SB Nation Soccer's  2011 Women's World Cup StoryStream. Stay with this StoryStream for more on Hope Solo and the United States Womens National Team.

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Women's World Cup 2011, France Vs. USA Score: Second Half Spurt Sends US Women To Finals, 3-1

The USA looked to be in dire straits again in the Women's World Cup, tied at one with France, but looking helpless in the run of play during the second half of Wednesday's quarterfinal. Tactically, France was dominating the midfield, setting up dangerous chances and testing Hope Solo often. But thanks to a quick burst that included two goals in just a few minutes, the USA went from on its heels to in complete control, once again using late heroics to stave-off elimination in the Women's World Cup.

Lauren Cheney got the scoring going for the USA, netting a ninth minute goal to put the Americans on top. Heather O'Reilly came steaming in from the left flank, placing a beautiful cross right on the boot of Cheney. She finished the chance and the USA was in front early.

But in the second half, France got one back, equalizing on Sonia Bompastore's cross-turned-shot. Solo clearly expected a French attacker to get a head on the ball and was unable to cover the back post. With the score tied, France kept pushing, and it felt as though it was a matter of time before they got another.

The momentum turned on a set piece, and Abby Wambach was the hero again. A deep cross to the back post found Wambach's head, leaving France powerful to make a stop. Up 2-1, the USA was in control with just 10 minutes to go, but still had business to take care of with the French continuing to push forward.

Alex Morgan put the game out of reach just a few minutes later, using her superb speed to get behind the French back-line, earning a one-on-one chance with the keeper. She finished clinically, chipping the keeper to find the back of the net and give the USA a two-goal lead. It was a wonderful finish, and just what the doctor ordered for the American side.

The USA controlled the final seven minutes, keeping France off the scoreboard, and advanced to the Women's World Cup finals with a 3-1 win. Maybe Solo was right, and perhaps this is a team of destiny. Once again, they kept fighting and found a way to suddenly hit the gas and slam the door on France in the Women's World Cup semifinals.

For more on the tournament, be sure to visit SB Nation Soccer's 2011 Women's World Cup StoryStream. Stay with this StoryStream for more on Hope Solo and the United States Womens National Team.

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2011 Women's World Cup: USA Falls To Sweden, Will Face Brazil In Quarterfinals

It's hard to fault Hope Solo for the two first half goals conceded by the United States in the first half of their final group stage matchup of the 2011 Women's World Cup. The American back-line was porous, to say the least, giving Sweden two excellent opportunities off dead-ball situations in the first half. As the Swedish National Team hammered home a penalty kick and free kick off a deflection, the USA found itself in an unfamiliar position in this Women's World Cup, trailing for the first time in the tournament.

Amy LePeilbet's sloppy challenge inside the box gave Sweden a penalty in the 15th minute, putting Solo on the spot right away and placing her shutout streak in jeopardy. Solo guessed right on Lisa Dahlkvist's shot, but the pace put it just out of reach, ending the streak and giving Sweden a 1-0 lead.

Later in the half, the US conceded a dangerous free kick just outside the box as the back-line struggled to contain the Swedish attack. Nilla Fischer's free kick clipped a US player on the outside of the wall, changing the ball's direction and throwing Solo off. The ball trickled into the net and the United States found itself stunned, trailing by two goals.

Abby Wambach got one back in the second half as she redirected a corner into the net to cut Sweden's lead to 2-1, but that was all the USA could muster. The Americans fell to Sweden by a goal, but will still advance to the Women's World Cup quarterfinals. Unfortunately, the loss results in a matchup with powerhouse Brazil in what's sure to be the blockbuster match of the round.

Sweden took the Group C crown with a perfect nine points, with the USA advancing as the second team out of the group stage with six points. The US and Brazil take the field on Sunday in a loser-out game in the quarterfinals of the 2011 Women's World Cup. It's not the matchup the Americans hoped for, but they're through to the next round and into the knockout stages.

For more on the tournament, be sure to visit SB Nation Soccer's 2011 Women's World Cup StoryStream. Stay with this StoryStream for more on Hope Solo and the United States Womens National Team.

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