I would go for American keeper Hope Solo. The US team have a really strong back line, but if you do manage to breach it she is always there blocking everything you throw at her. During the Olympic final we played one of our best ever games, causing the American back line a lot of problems, yet we couldn’t seem to get the ball past her. That was why we had to settle for a silver medal.
—  Shinobu Ohno, when asked about the best player she has played against (x)
  • As the United States stood disconsolately on the field after its shocking defeat in the 2011 Women's World Cup final, one Japanese player broke away from her own team's joyous celebrations.
  • Aya Miyama sought out every American player she could find and hugged them, while her teammates rushed over to the sidelines before parading around the field carrying a giant banner.
  • Miyama had every reason in the world to be wrapped up in her own emotions, with her nation having won the tournament for the first time, while paying tribute to the victims of the devastating earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster that struck north-east Japan four months earlier (hence the touching banner that thanked worldwide fans for their support).
  • Yet, she could not ignore the Americans, some of whom stood, some crouched, some simply slumped on the field in Frankfurt's Commerzbank Arena, unable to comprehend how victory had been snatched from them by Japan's dramatic late comeback and subsequent penalty shootout triumph.
  • Miyama sought out U.S. goalkeeper Hope Solo, a friend with whom she had exchanged emails before the game. The pair chatted and Miyama offered words of consolation, before Solo urged her to go off and enjoy the moment.
  • "She wanted to show the Americans respect because she knew how much it hurt us," Solo told David Letterman after returning home. "I had to tell her, 'Aya, you won the World Cup, the first time in your nation's history, celebrate please.'"
  • But first Miyama went around the U.S. group, giving kind words. There was a squeeze of the shoulder for Christie Rampone. A hug for Megan Rapinoe. A smile and whispered tribute for Heather O'Reilly.
  • "It is important to understand the feelings of another person or another football player," the 30-year-old said. "We are all football players and everybody wants to win, but it is only possible for one team to achieve that. You must have respect for them and their effort. This is what I love about the game of football."
  • - USA today Sports:Meet the USA's best friend and biggest threat on Japanese World Cup team

These two teams have met each other in the past three major women’s football finals, twice in World Cup finals and in the past Olympic final. When these two sides play, the world stops and we get to witness some of the most beautiful football there is. I don’t think there are two other teams in women’s sport that share the mutual respect the US and Japan have for each other.  It’s one of my most favorite things about this sport. 

[photography credit]