Alex Morgan
After scoring off the bench in last year's World Cup final against Japan, Alex Morgan will be looking to reinforce her new status as a star of Pia Sundhage's team, when the two teams meet once more in the Olympics final. Reuters

When and where: The gold-medal match of the Olympic women's soccer competition kicks-off from Wembley Stadium at 2.45 p.m. ET. Coverage will be provided by the NBC Sports Network, with a live stream available on

Preview: After the drama of the United States' extra-time victory over Canada, there could be plenty more in store when the U.S. takes on their current great rivals Japan.

The two nations have firmly established themselves as the strongest in women's soccer in the past 12 months, following their incredible World Cup final last summer. On that occasion Japan upset the U.S. with victory on penalty kicks after coming from a goal down to equalize late in regulation time and then repeating the trick in extra time.

The two sides should be all too familiar with each other having already met three times this year. Japan inflicted a further defeat on the U.S. with victory at the Algarve Cup in March, followed by a 1-1 tie in Sendai, Japan just a few weeks later. Pia Sundhage's side should be buoyed by the last time the sides met as the U.S. ran out dominant 4-1 winners in Sweden.

There will also be encouragement for the U.S. from the way Japan came close to surrendering a two-goal lead late in their semifinal against France. Indeed, the final lineup might have been different had Elise Bussaglia converted a penalty 14 minutes from time.

"I'm not looking back to 2011 when we played against Japan and tied the game but lost in penalty kicks, said Sundhage, according to "I look at it as: we're playing against a technical team and we're playing a team that struggled quite a bit against France in the last 20 minutes. I look at the way the coach took out [Mizuho] Sakaguchi. That's interesting to me. That's intriguing, and the name of the country doesn't matter."

Alex Morgan scored twice the last time when the teams last faced off and took her tally for the year to a team-leading 20 with that late, late winner against Canada.

While that was her first goal since an opening win over France, the 23-year-old's pace and technical quality on the ball has been a vital for the U.S.'s progress. Morgan has also contributed three assists as her relationship with Abby Wambach has flourished on the renowned soccer fields of Britain.

Morgan elaborated on how her role has evolved since being deployed as an impact substitute in the 2011 World Cup.

"I think I've changed a lot as a player on feeling more comfortable on the ball," she said, according to "I think coming off the bench last year, I had a specific role and that was to get in behind the back line and that was my only role. Now it's opened up a little bit to stretching the back line, but switching up the roles with Abby [Wambach] a little bit and being a little more unpredictable."

As for Japan, regardless of what happens at Wembley, they have proved that their World Cup triumph was no mere fluke. Riding on a wave of emotion following the devastating tsunami that struck the country last March, Japan were not even expected to reach the final in Germany, let alone take home the trophy.

Many have since suggested that the circumstances meant the triumph could be rendered a one off. In Britain, though, Norio Sasaki's side has confirmed that they are now a real force in the women's game.

To neutrals Japan continue to be an aesthetically pleasurable site. World Player of the Year Homare Sawa, despite being 33, is still the embodiment of that philosophy as she looks to be the creative force in the midfield.

While the U.S. have become more of a short-passing team, against Japan they will look to rely on their physical attributes to get the edge.

To that end, attempting to maximize the aerial prowess of Wambach along with the speed in-behind of Morgan will prove crucial to the chances of the United States taking home their third straight gold medal.

Prediction: Having exerted themselves for an emotionally and physically draining 120 minutes just three days ago, the U.S. will have to show all their powers of recovery to be at their best at Wembley. Sundhage must surely be hoping that the motivation her squad feels to avenge the heart-breaking loss to Japan in the World Cup final.

The U.S. should also be encouraged by the defensive vulnerability shown by Japan in their semifinal against France. While it has not always been comfortable for the U.S. in this Olympics, they look like a team on a mission and it is hard to see Japan denying them again. After her heroics last time out, this could be Alex Morgan's time to truly announce herself as a national superstar.

U.S. 2-1 Japan