World Cup loss added motivation

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LONDON -- They say that time heals all wounds. But one year and 22 days aren't enough to erase the pain of the 2011 World Cup final felt by the United States women's soccer team.

"They snatched our dream," midfielder Megan Rapinoe said of Japan's win against the Americans in Frankfurt, Germany.

The U.S. was three minutes away from the World Cup title. But Homare Sawa tied the score for Japan with three minutes in overtime, just like her teammate Aya Miyama had done with 10 minutes left in regulation.

From there, Japan won 3-1 in a penalty kick shootout.

The Americans get another shot at Japan in the Olympic gold medal game tonight in Wembley Stadium.

"It definitely stung. It was pretty heartbreaking," Rapinoe said. "That has been a sense of motivation for this year. It is not a malicious revenge, but we definitely love to come out on top."

This has been a pretty rough Olympics. There were 39 fouls called in the Americans' 4-3 come-from-behind semifinal win Monday against Canada.

Don't expect anything like that in this gold medal game.

"Teams may use that as tactics because they may not be better than us and it would maybe, in their opinion, even the playing field," said forward Abby Wambach. "The Japanese team is so good, and we are so good that it is about the soccer. You will see beautiful soccer happen. You are going to see some amazing goals scored. And hopefully, people will become legends tomorrow night."

The Americans are 5-0 in the London Olympics but had to rally from a 2-0 deficit against France and come back against Canada.

Japan is 3-0-2 and eliminated Brazil, a finalist in the past two Olympics.

U.S. coach Pia Sundhage will have to mix up her offensive strategy against Japan. The Americans will play some possession like the Japanese to slow down the game. But they also will have look for scoring chances with Wambach and forward Alex Morgan. Wambach has five goals; Morgan has three.

"Japan has proven themselves. We know their strengths and weaknesses and they know ours. It will be a battle on the field," Morgan said. "We need to bring our best game. It is more about us than them. We are going to worry about the strengths and tactics we need to work on for our team."

The biggest edge the U.S. might have is the sting of what happened last summer.

"This game will be different from the World Cup game" said midfielder Carli Lloyd. "There will be new challenges. We are different team. Japan is a different team. We are ready to bring it."

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