United States vs. Japan
2:45 p.m. Sunday, ESPN, Ch. 5.
Planning your day: Television coverage begins at 2 p.m. However, the game's official starting time is 2:45 p.m.
Planning your time: Halves are 45 minutes, so the game should be over by 4:30 p.m. or so. That's avoiding "added time," which is the few minutes added by the officials at the end of each half, or "extra time," which is soccer's version of overtime (two 15-minute halves played to their completion), or the harrowing penalty kick shootout.
Who you're listening to: Ian Darke is the play-by-play guy with the British accent and the fun soccer phrasing. "Well done," "brilliant," "splendid," "deft," and -- hopefully for the U.S. fans -- some "good football" resulting in a "cracker" of a shot or two. Color commentator Julie Foudy is unsteady in the booth compared to the field, where she was the sturdiest of defenders for four World Cups and two U.S. titles. She will "do well" to keep her comments "on frame" today.
In the haus: Chelsea Clinton, daughter of former President Bill Clinton and current Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, and Jill Biden, wife of Vice President Biden, are expected to be among the sellout crowd of about 49,000.
U.S. history lesson: The United States has won two Women's World Cups, but hasn't done so since 1999, when Brandi Chastain scored the game-winning penalty kick against China and whipped off her jersey before more than 90,000 people in the Rose Bowl.
Japan history lesson: The team -- which begins each pregame by displaying a banner thanking the globe for its support following March's tragic earthquake -- had won just three games in a combined five World Cups prior to this month. Japan then recorded the stunner of the tournament by defeating host and defending champion Germany in the quarterfinals, and beat Sweden (which beat the U.S. in group play) in the semis.
U.S. stars: Rochester native Abby Wambach and her dramatic headers have helped lift the U.S. to the final, first with a scintillating, shorthanded, headline-grabbing, last-minute goal to force penalty kicks with Brazil in the quarterfinals, then with a go-ahead goal against France in the semifinals. ... The great goalkeeper (aggressive, athletic, measured, confident) with one of the greatest names in sports is Hope Solo. ... Her starting job was taken away just prior to the tournament, but New Jersey's Megan Rapinoe has been a force when being substituted late in the game, including her momentous cross --- which found Wambach's head --- in extra time against Brazil.
Japan stars: Homare Sawa is a 32-year-old in her fifth World Cup who leads the team with five goals in four games. ... Nahomi Kawasumi, who had seen limited action before the semifinal, made her first start in the semifinal and scored twice in the 3-1 win over Sweden. ... Diminutive 26-year-old Aya Miyama personifies the fine passing of the Nadeshiko (what the team is known by in Japan) with a team-high three assists.
Impress your friends: Japan has succeeded with excellent tactical and technical play, keeping possession of the ball with good, quick combinations of passes and remaining well-positioned to defend even if they lose the ball. Their play has been lauded worldwide and is a great contrast with the U.S., which is more physically imposing and more physically fit. The U.S. was outpossessed against France in the semifinal, but after some dicey moments early in a 1-1 second half, Wambach's header and a well-placed breakaway shot by Alex Morgan gave the scoreboard the look of a sizable (for soccer) 3-1 win.
Our team, our coach: "It's something about the American attitude, and finding a way to win," was the way U.S. coach Pia Sundhage described her team's comeback win over Brazil. Sundhage is a native and citizen of ... Sweden.
Real-life pregame show: FC Buffalo of the National Premier Soccer League moved its regular season finale at All High Stadium up from 3 p.m. to noon today as not to conflict with the big game.
Opportunity to see the stars up close -- but hurry: The WNY Flash (featuring Alex Morgan of the U.S.) hosts magicjack (featuring Wambach and Solo) of Florida in a Women's Professional Soccer match at 7:45 p.m. Wednesday at Sahlen Stadium in Rochester. At last count, some 8,500 tickets had been sold, and the stadium will open up its upper deck to accommodate what is expected to be a sellout crowd.