The semifinals of the 2012 Olympic Games in London, England have been set. One of these is between Mexico and Japan. Both teams have been playing some incredible, controlling soccer this tournament and that should make for a great match to look forward to.
There is a lot at stake for both teams, a win means a guaranteed medal and a loss means another match where it is all on the line. The Mexicans have been able to score this whole tournament and the Japanese have been able to keep opponents' goals off the score sheet. These two teams square up nicely to create an interesting match of contrasts.
Japan qualified for the knockout round by winning their group, including an opening win against Spain. They were then able to advance to the semifinals with a 3-0 blanking of Egypt.
As for the Mexican team, they were able to qualify for the knockout stage with wins over Gabon and Switzerland, as well as a draw with South Korea. They were then able to advance to the semifinals after beating Senegal 4-2 in extra time.
Where: Wembley Stadium, London, England
When: Tuesday, August 7, 12 PM EST
Live Stream: NBC Olympics Live Extra
TV: NBC Olympic Soccer Channel
The last time these two nations met up on the pitch was back in 2005, according to FIFA. That match ended in a 2-1 victory for Mexico. They also have met a previous three times, with Japan's only win coming the first time they played each other in 1996 where they were able to put up a 3-2 triumph.
The real history, however, comes from the 1968 Olympic Games held in Mexico City. It was here the two teams faced each other in the bronze medal match. Mexico, undoubtedly, wanting to win something on home soil were disappointed when the Japanese were able to beat them 2-0. Japan laid claim to the final medal of the Olympic football tournament in 1968, leaving Mexico and all of its supporters with nothing better than a fourth place.
This game could be a chance for Mexico to have some redemption. After all, a win in this game will guarantee someone at least a silver medal.
Players to Watch
Giovani dos Santos
If Mexico is to win this match they are going to need to score goals. That will all rest on Giovani dos Santos. So far through the tournament he has scored three goals in the same amount of games. He has taken 12 shots thus far, having four of them placed on target. Dos Santos has been a force for Mexico up front and they will look for him to provide the skill that he has in order to make opportunities happen.
According to ESPN Soccer Net, former French star Thierry Henry said four years ago that:
"He (dos Santos) has speed and can change the course of a game with his genius. He can in two, three or four years be one of the best players in the world if he wants."
Although dos Santos has never panned out to that extent, it does show the talent that he possesses. Even if he never did become a name that is known throughout the world, dos Santos is a name known to followers of the Mexican national side. He provides talent to the team and can score goals, and again, that will be key for Mexico to win this match.
Although whole credit can not always be given to just one player on a team when it comes to defense, Shuichi Gonda does deserve a lot of praise. Any time a goalkeeper can keep a blank sheet for four straight games is amazing. No one in the tournament has yet to beat him and it will be key for Gonda to continue that trend if Japan wants to win.
Mexico will bring a strong offense with lots of skill up front. If Gonda can make some key stops throughout the game the rest of the defense should be able to handle anything else that comes their way. He knows that it is not just him that makes up the defense but rather the whole team, Gonda tells FIFA.
"It comes down to us all working together. Our great strength is the team spirit that we've built. We play as a unit, where everyone helps out in defense and everyone contributes to the attack. We all help each other out during games. And that sense of unity is what is driving us forward."
It is not just at the Olympics where Gonda has shown he can be more than capable in net. During the Japanese's two rounds of qualifying for the Olympics, the team only conceded six goals in eight games.
Prediction: Japan wins 1-0
The Japanese team will turn out to be too much for the Mexicans.
Although the Mexicans may be able to apply pressure and get some good scoring opportunities, it will be tough for them to convert. They will be swarmed all game by the relentless Japanese defence and then will also have to manage to get a shot by Japanese goalkeeper Shuichi Gonda.
It will be a tight game, but eventually Japan will be able to counter the Mexican attack and turn it into a goal. A close game from the start, but Japan will be declared the winner after scoring the lone goal.