The 2012 women's indoor volleyball field of 12 squads has been whittled down to just four, as one nation is now just two wins away from leaving London with the Olympic gold.
Brazil, the defending gold medalists, overcame a rough road through group play to secure a date with Japan in the semifinals.
Meanwhile, the 2008 silver medal squad Team USA has put forth a dominant team effort as it marches on undefeated into a semifinal matchup with South Korea.
Now one of these four nations is just six winning sets from glory, as the semifinals are set to begin on Aug. 9, with the medal matches on Aug. 11.
Where: Earls Court, London
Semifinal Date: Thursday, Aug. 9
United States vs. Korea: 3 p.m. BST, 10 a.m. EST on NBC
Brazil vs. Japan: 7:30 p.m. BST, 2:30 p.m. EST on MSNBC
Live Stream: NBC Live Extra
United States Road to the Semifinals
Group B play: 5-0 overall, 15-2 in sets, No. 1 in standings
Quarterfinals: 3-0 over Dominican Republic
The American squad came out of group play with more points than any other nation, winning all five of its preliminary matches. They have only dropped two sets during their entire Olympic run to this point—one to Brazil and one to Korea. After a strong showing in the group stage, Team USA continued its dominance with a 3-0 win in the quarterfinals over the Dominican Republic.
They have been led so far by 6'3" Destinee Hooker, who has compiled 102 spikes and 18 blocks. Her prolific point production from the outside has been complemented by her 6'3" teammate Foluke Akinradewo, who has been one of the best middle blockers in this tournament. The strong American team effort has been led by veteran Lindsey Berg who, at age 32, is making her third Olympic appearance.
Korea Road to Semifinals
Group B play: 2-3 overall, 11-10 in sets, No. 3 in standings
Quarterfinals: 3-1 over Italy
Korea did not exert the same dominance as the U.S. to advance through group play. However, the Korean squad was able to play close and earn positive results against nearly every team they faced. They began group play with a 3-1 loss to Team USA but bounced back to beat Serbia and Brazil. Consecutive 3-2 losses to Turkey and China provided the points necessary for Korea to advance with eight points in group play.
Next, in the quarterfinals, Korea showed just how strong group B really is by dropping the No. 2 squad from group A Italy. Much of their success has come thanks to their 6'4" spiker Kim Yeon-Koung, who has led all competitors with 146 spikes to go with 14 blocks.
Brazil Road to Semifinals
Group B play: 3-2 overall, 10-10 in sets, No. 4 in standings
Quarterfinals: 3-2 over Russia
The defending gold medal squad hasn't quite looked like the same team that beat Team USA in the finals in 2008. The Brazilians came to London with a No. 2 ranking in the FIVB world rankings but barely made it out of group play as the last team to advance from the strong group B. They were outscored 6-1 in consecutive matches against the U.S. and Korea, and narrowly escaped 3-2 over China before their final 3-0 win over Serbia, which sent them to the knockout stage.
Individually, Brazil has been led by two of the top scorers in the tournament Sheilla Castro and Thaisa Menezes. Also, Brazilian libero Fabiana Oliveira had one of the best plays of any sport in these entire Summer Olympics with her amazing kick-save.
Japan Road to Semifinals
Group A play: 3-2 overall, 11-6 in sets, No. 3 in standings
Quarterfinals: 3-2 over China
Japan is the last team left from the apparently weaker group A. The Japanese team didn't surprise or impress much in the early going in group play. They beat the teams they were supposed to beat but fell short against the top two teams in the group. Simply, they did what they needed to do to move on.
Then, in the quarterfinals, they played one of the most thrilling matches of the tournament against the No. 3 team in the world, China. Each set was decided by the minimum two points, as Japan eventually emerged victorious by taking the final set 18-16.
Unlike Korea, Japan lacks the one big star leading the charge. However, the Japanese do boast one of London's top servers, Erika Araki who has seven aces so far. Also, at just 5'9", Yukiko Ebata is one of the shortest but also one of the most successful spikers in the tournament, with the fifth-best efficiency rating at 33.51-percent.
United States vs. Korea: Korea may boast the top individual player in London so far, but the U.S. has plenty of star power as well. Additionally, Team USA has been just that—an excellent team. They have been carried by cohesion, chemistry and all-around strong play at nearly every position. The Americans already topped the Koreans once, and in the end, Korea won't have enough to stop them from doing it again.
United States 3, Korea 1
Brazil vs. Japan: Brazil has been up-and-down to this point, flashing signs of greatness but also showing that they are certainly beatable. Meanwhile, Japan has been somewhat of a pillar of consistency, while also proving they have what it takes to play the role of giant killer. However, Brazil has a title to defend, and when push comes to shove, they will do what it takes to set up the gold medal rematch against the U.S.
Brazil 3, Japan 2