Olympic Women's Football: 10 Bold Predictions for France vs. Japan
It's the semifinals of the London 2012 Women's Olympic Football Tournament, and Norio Sasaki's Nadeshiko Japan are two wins away from the securing the double after upsetting Brazil 2-0 at the Millenium Stadium in Cardiff.
But in their way stand Bruno Bini's France, who had to work hard defensively to maintain a 2-1 victory over Sweden at Hampden Park in Glasgow.
The winner of this contest gets to take on either Canada or the United States at Wembley Stadium. Kickoff for this Monday match at Wembley is scheduled for 5 p.m. BST (12 p.m. ET). Here are 10 bold predictions for France vs. Japan.
1. Low Scoring Game: Under Five Goals
There won't be a lot of goals scored in this one; there were only three in the match between Sweden and France and only two between Japan and Brazil. It will be a defensive struggle between two proud teams. Under five goals will be scored at Wembley.
2. Under Five Saves for Ayumi Kaihori
Japan goalkeeper Ayumi Kaihori is blessed with one of the most consistent back lines in the tournament in Azusa Iwashimizu, Saki Kumagai, Aya Sameshima and Yukari Kinga.
Kaihori will not have to do a lot of work, but she will need to make stops. Under five saves will be made from Kaihori in this contest.
3. Sarah Bouhaddi vs. the Nadeshiko Firing Squad
On the other side, you have a goalkeeper in Sarah Bouhaddi who had to make some stops to secure France's 2-1 victory over Sweden. She struggled in their defeat to the United States in group play, so you know she is not the most consistent goalkeeper in this tournament.
If the French back line of Wendie Renard, Laura Georges, Corine Franco and Sonia Bompastor don't help Bouhaddi out, the netminder is up against the big guns of Nadeshiko Japan. At least five saves will be made by Bouhaddi.
4. No Goals from France
France is going to have a tough go against a Japan team that shut out Marta, Cristiane and Brazil 2-0 in the quarterfinals. Les Bleus will have a tough time finishing their chances, and that's going to result in zero goals.
5. Japan Scores Within First 30 Minutes
Nadeshiko Japan is going to open up the scoring within the first 30 minutes of the contest. Forward Yuki Ogimi scored in the 27th minute against Brazil and will be counted on to deliver once again for Sasaki's ladies.
6. Shinobo Ohno on the Scoresheet for Japan
Another consistent goalscorer for the Nadeshiko is Shinobu Ohno, who scored in the 73rd minute against Brazil. Ohno just has a knack for creating space and making the most of her chances. Ohno will get on the scoresheet for Japan once again.
7. Two Assists from Aya Miyama
A great deal of Japan's production comes from the captain, Aya Miyama. Her leadership and on-the-field savvy has Japan within touching distance of the gold-medal match. Miyama will record a brace of assists against France.
8. France Dominate Stat Sheet
One part of the game France will dominate in is the stat sheet. Japan conceded more possession (64 to 36 percent), playing time (38 to 21), corners (10 to two) and shots on goal (seven to four) to Brazil, and it will be more of the same against Les Bleus.
9. At Least 20 Fouls, Under Five Yellows
With this being the semifinals of the London 2012 women's football tournament, it will be every athlete for herself at Wembley. There will be tackles, there will be fouls, and there will be cards. At least 20 fouls will be whistled, but under five yellow cards and no reds will be issued.
10. Japan Shuts out France to Move on to Gold-Medal Game
France may dominate the stat sheet, but Japan will dominate the scoreline, and the scoreline is what will either send you to the gold-medal game or the bronze-medal game. For Japan, they will be one step closer to securing the double.
Japan 3, France 0