The United States women's soccer team reached the gold medal round of the 2012 London Olympics with an exciting, yet controversial 4-3 victory over Team Canada in stoppage time yesterday. The semifinal victory earned the U.S. team a date with Japan in a rematch of the 2011 FIFA Women's World Cup Final.
Japan upset the U.S. in the World Cup final last July after penalty kicks were needed to settle a 2-2 tie, becoming the first Asian team to win a FIFA World Cup. Soccer fans have been anticipating this gold medal matchup for more than a year.
Where: Wembley Stadium, London, England
When: Thursday, August 9, 2:45 p.m. EST
Live Stream: NBC Olympics
T.V. Coverage: NBC Olympics TV Listings
United States Team Breakdown
The U.S. women's soccer team will be looking to win its third straight Olympic gold medal and fourth overall since women's soccer became part of the Games in 1996. Although the U.S. women are No. 1 in the FIFA Women's World Rankings, their path to the gold medal round has not been easy.
U.S. goalie Hope Solo has led the women's national team to three shutouts in their five Olympic contests. But the U.S. has had unexpectedly tough matches against Korea and Canada, a team they haven't lost to since 2001.
After trailing three times in Monday's game, the U.S. got some controversial help from the referees with a rarely called six-second holding call going against Canadian goalkeeper Erin McLeod. That led to an indirect free kick, during which another questionable hand ball call was made.
U.S. co-captain Abby Wambach tied the game at three on the ensuing penalty kick. American heartthrob Alex Morgan won the game with a header in the 123rd minute to send the women's team back to the gold medal game.
Six of the 18 women on the U.S. women's soccer roster were not on the 2008 Olympic team. But only one player, 22-year-old forward Sydney Leroux, was absent from the 2011 World Cup team. So a majority of the players still carry wounds from that stunning defeat against Japan.
Morgan is one of the six first-time Olympians, but the 23-year-old is the latest U.S. women's soccer star, following in the tradition of notable players like Mia Hamm, Brandi Chastain and Julie Foudy. Her game-winning header against Canada was a fitting result for the future of women's soccer in the United States.
Japan Team Breakdown
The Japanese women's soccer team traveled a less dramatic road to the Olympic gold medal game, but that doesn't mean it was easy. After notching only one win and two draws in pool play, the Japanese team defeated Brazil 2-0 and France 2-1 to advance to Thursday's final.
Just as the U.S. women will be looking to avenge last year's loss in the FIFA Women's World Cup Final, the Japanese women are out to prove that the victory was no fluke. They are assured of medaling for the first time in Olympic history, and will be aiming to become the first team in history to win the World Cup and Olympic gold medal in a two-year window.
The Japanese team will be led by 27-year-old captain Aya Miyama and 33-year-old veteran Homare Sawa, who leads the team in international caps (177) and goals scored (80). Soccer fans should also look out for dangerous forwards Shinobu Ohno and Yuki Ogimi. Ogimi scored the winning goal against France.
Prediction: After getting a scare from Team Canada and with the World Cup loss fresh on their minds, look for the U.S. women to come away with the gold medal in a 3-2 victory that will be every bit as close as the 2011 World Cup Final.