[TAPE OF THE TAPE] Who will emerge as gold-medal winners in this rematch of 2011 Women's World Cup finalists? Thursday's Wembley final pits the USA's attack of
Abby Wambach, Alex Morgan and Megan Rapinoe (11 goals in five games) against
Japan's experienced defense that has allowed only two goals in five games (TV: NBC Sports Network, live, 2:45 pm ET).
USA: Hope Solo (age: 31/club: Seattle Sounders Women)
Japan: Miho Fukumoto (age: 28:/club: Okayama Yunogo Belle)
Solo was helpless on Canadian Christine Sinclair's three goals in the semifinal but made a big save on Sophie Schmidt late in Monday's semifinal. Kukumoto had to hold off a ferocious French onslaught to preserve Japan's 2-1 win. Solo was named the top goalie at the 2011 Women's World Cup, while Japan coach Norio Sasaki calls the 5-foot-5 Fukumoto "a god."
USA: Amy LePeilbet (30/no club)
Japan: Yukari Kinga (28/INAC Leonessa)
LePeilbet was moved to right back from the left side after Ali Krieger was lost with a knee injury. Kinga provides Japan with another attacking option on the right side. She scored against the USA at the 2012 Women's Kirin Cup.
USA: Christie Rampone (37/no club) and Rachel Buehler (26/no club)
Japan: Saki Kumagai (21/1.FFC Frankfurt) and Azusa Iwashimizu (25/NTV Beleza)
Like Kinga, Kumagai and Iwashimizu have played every minute for Japan at the 2011 Women's World Cup and 2012 Olympics (Iwashimizu was red-carded in stoppage time of the Women's World Cup for a foul on Alex Morgan). Rampone and Buehler have a combined 352 caps for the USA.
USA: Kelley O'Hara (24/no club)
Japan: Aya Sameshima (25/Vegalta Sendai Ladies)
Sameshima also played every minute at the 2011 Women's World Cup, while O'Hara is the only projected U.S. starter who didn't play in the 2011 final. A converted forward, O'Hara assisted on Megan Rapinoe's second goal against Canada.
USA: Megan Rapinoe (27/Seattle Sounders Women)
Japan: Aya Miyama (27/Okayama Yunogo Belle)
Rapinoe has emerged as one of the stars of the U.S. national team with three goals -- two against Canada -- and two assists at the Olympics. Miyama, who had the first goal in the 2011 Women's World Cup final, is Japan's free-kick specialist.
USA: Carli Lloyd (30/no club) and Lauren Cheney (24/no club)
Japan: Homare Sawa (33/INAC Leonessa) and Mizuho Sakaguchi (24/NTV Beleza)
Lloyd took over for the injured Shannon Boxx in the opener against France and has scored twice in five games. Cheney played as a second forward at the 2011 Women's World Cup but has been used in a more defensive role as the second central midfielder. Sawa, the 2011 Women's World Cup MVP and FIFA Women's Player of the Year, has had a rather quiet World Cup. Sakaguchi, who scored the second goal against France, serves as Japan's holding midfielder.
USA: Tobin Heath (24/New York Fury)
Japan: Nahomi Kawasumi (26/INAC Leonessa)
Heath has started over fellow New Jersey product and North Carolina alum Heather O'Reilly, who came on for Cheney and set up Morgan for the dramatic winner against Canada. Heath gives the USA another player with skill to match the Japanese. Kawasumi scored twice at the 2011 Women's World Cup and had the opening goal against Canada in the Olympic opener.
USA: Abby Wambach (32/no club) and Alex Morgan (23/Seattle Sounders Women)
Japan: Shinobu Ohno (28/INAC Leonessa) and Yuki Ogimi (25/1.FFC Turbine Potsdam)
Wambach (5 goals and 1 assist) has scored in every game at the Olympics, while Morgan (3 goals and 4 assists), who had the winner against Canada, is the most feared woman in the open field. As they showed against Brazil when they both scored on counterattacks, Ogimi and Ohno are no slouches, either. Ogimi, the only projected Japanese starter not at the 2011 Women's World Cup, leads Nadeshiko Japan with two goals at the Olympics.