For just over a year, the USA women have nursed a sense of grievance over their defeat to the Japanese in last year’s World Cup in Germany where they were beaten on penalties after a 2-2 draw.
The Americans arrived in London thirsting for the opportunity to make amends for that bitter defeat, a ferocious desire that has been evident in a rollercoaster ride into Thursday’s final.
In their opening match against France, they were 2-0 down inside the first 20 minutes before regrouping to run out 4-2 winners.
Then on Monday they trailed against Canada three times before finally clinching a sensational 4-3 victory in the final minute of extra-time courtesy of an Alex Morgan header.
“For some reason we like to make things dramatic,” the USA’s veteran striker Abby Wambach reflected after the victory over Canada.
“This team doesn’t give up. This is what we’re about. This is what we’ve been working for since the day we lost to Japan in the World Cup final.”
Wambach, scorer of the extra-time winner when the USA won Olympic gold in Athens eight years ago, kept her cool superbly on Monday when she stroked in a pressure-laden penalty to equalise 10 minutes from time.
The 32-year-old has been a key rallying point for her younger team-mates during this Olympic campaign, forging a deadly partnership with the 23-year-old Morgan which has yielded eight of the USA’s 14 goals from five matches.
Wambach spoke admiringly of her young strike partner after Monday’s win, hailing Morgan’s winner as “a great goal by a young kid who has big expectations for herself.”
Morgan meanwhile is looking forward to the prospect of facing Japan as the USA attempt to win the gold medal for the fourth time in five attempts.
“Now we’re up against Japan and we really want that rematch,” Morgan said.
Japan meanwhile have reached the final after a tournament in which they have got progressively stronger following a troubled build-up.
The Japanese are attempting to become only the second team in history to hold the women’s World Cup and Olympic titles at the same time and Yuki Ogimi says the mood is better than ever.
“We have a different feeling,” Ogimi said when asked to compare the current squad with last year’s World Cup winners. “We are working more as a team. As for myself, I am happier than last year.”