The medal rounds for the world’s most popular sport are finally upon us, with the Team USA women facing a familiar foe in Japan in the Gold Medal match Thursday afternoon.
Meanwhile, the men’s final between soccer juggernaut Brazil and upstart Mexico will close out the action on the pitch on Saturday morning.
Here is the match schedule:
Women’s Gold Medal Match
USA vs. Japan
When: Thursday, Aug. 9, 2:45 p.m. ET
TV: NBC Sports Network
Men’s Gold Medal Match
Mexico vs. Brazil
When: Saturday, Aug. 11, 10:00 a.m. ET
TV: NBC Sports Network
Women’s Final Breakdown
Team USA is in its fifth consecutive Olympic final, and they have plenty of motivation to capture the Gold considering that they lost to Japan in the 2011 World Cup final.
Thanks to the heroics of forward Alex Morgan—who scored a thrilling last-second goal to defeat Canada 4-3 in the semis—the U.S. will get its shot at redemption.
Morgan, along with forward Abby Wambach—who as B/R colleague Brian Mazique points out, has almost single-handedly equaled Japan’s scoring output to this point—will look to push the pace against a Japan squad known for slowing the tempo and playing solid defense.
If the U.S. hopes to defeat Japan, chances are that Morgan and Wambach will need to come up big once more.
If Japan hopes to break out of its recent scoring slump, reigning FIFA player of the year Homare Sawa will have to regain the form she displayed in last year’s run to the World Cup. (h/t Brian Straus, Sporting News).
Men’s Final Breakdown
Despite its storied history as one of the world’s premier soccer powerhouses, Brazil is still in search of search of its first gold medal.
Striker Leandro Damiao has been one of the breakout stars of these Olympic games, with two of his tournament-leading six goals coming in Brazil’s 3-0 semifinal victory over South Korea.
Damiao and fellow forward Neymar—and midfielder Oscar—represent some of the world’s up-and-coming young stars. They've helped Brazil notch three goals in each of their five matches leading up to the final.
Mexico is guaranteed to medal in soccer for the first time in their country’s history, thanks to its 3-1 triumph over Japan in the semis.
Forwards Giovanni dos Santos—whose three goals lead Mexico in that category thus far—and Oribe Peralta must match the brilliance of their Brazilian counterparts if they hope to pull off the upset.