It's easy to say that the World Cup final is a battle to be crowned the best team in the world. After all, the team that wins the World Cup is the best around, naturally. But that can be misleader. It's one thing to be the best for a month every four years, but it's quite another to be the best at every major tournament. So the World Cup winner isn't really the best team in the world, but it will be in this case.
Whoever wins Sunday's final, be it the United States or Japan, will rightfully hold the crown as the world's best team. And that is on the line as much as the shiny trophy handed out when it's all done.
Over the last four years, no team has played as well as Germany, but that hasn't translated to making finals in major world tournaments. And in the end, making finals and winning trophies is what it's all about. Meanwhile, the U.S. and Japan have played in the last three finals.
In 2011, Japan was the surprise team of the World Cup. They made it to the final when no one expected them to get anywhere near it. And while they were undoubted underdogs in that final and fell behind twice, they came back to force penalties and beat the U.S. It was a wonderful tournament for the Japanese, but even then they weren't considered the best team in the world. They had no history of competing at that level and needed a fair bit of fortune to win the tournament. They were good, but lucky.
A year later, Japan put that notion to bed. They were back in a final, this time in the Olympic Gold Medal Game and, once again, they were taking on the U.S. But this time around, the Americans came out on top. Carli Lloyd played the role of hero and the U.S. got their revenge on Japan to continue their run of dominance in the Olympics.
Two tournaments in two years and the same teams in the finals both times. There was no doubt who the two best teams in the world were then, but this World Cup was supposed to be a little different. Germany were supposed to reign supreme. Or maybe France. Instead, it was the U.S. and Japan again.
At this point, there are two teams that stand above the rest. There's no question about Japan just having one good tournament or a short run. They've been there for four years over three tournaments. And the U.S. is there too, putting to bed any questions if this was the end of the Americans' dominance.
But who is better? Who is the best in the world and the ultimate team for four years running? It's either the U.S. or Japan, and 90 minutes at BC Place on Sunday will tell us. They'll play for the World Cup, and the title of World's Best.