VANCOUVER (Reuters) - Japan’s World Cup victory four years ago with a possession style approach was a turning point for the women’s game that will be reflected in Sunday’s final, according to United States head coach Jill Ellis.
Japan became the first Asian team to win the World Cup when they defeated the U.S on penalties in the final having despatched traditional European powers Germany and Sweden.
“I think 2011, it was a watershed moment with Japan winning,” said Ellis ahead of the 2015 final between the two sides at BC Place.
“I think the quarter-final win over Germany, it made everybody in the world realize that having the ball has a big part to do with being successful.
“It doesn’t matter how big or strong you are, the technique part is a massive part of the game.”
While Ellis’s team beat Japan for the gold medal at the 2012 London Olympics, she believed the style of playing implemented by Japan coach Norio Sasaki has influenced her own team.
“I think it made everyone realize that the refinement of technique and the constant evolution of the technical game, is really important to development,” she said.
“So I think they have helped us and everyone else in terms of recognizing what is important.” While the U.S. may have evolved from a more athletic and direct style, seeking to mix in more possession play, Sasaki said there still is a core difference between the two teams.
“The strength of the U.S. team is the power and the organized way of playing and this strong desire to win, they are highly motivated,” he said.
“We don’t have as much power but we have the skills, techniques and also network among players.”
Ellis said her team would not fall into the trap of trying to close down the Japanese constantly throughout the game but expects fans will be treated to some high quality play.
“I think we just have to be smart about when we pick and choose moments,” Ellis said.
“Certainly you can’t press and chase and make it a physical game for 90 minutes.
“But we have a great balance in our team, against the Germans in the semi, we were able to keep the ball and move the ball quickly.
“That is going to be the great part about this game — both teams are going to want to have the ball.”
Editing by Greg Stutchbury