Olympic Basketball 2012 Gold-Medal Game: Team USA Women Who Must Lead Way

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Olympic Basketball 2012 Gold-Medal Game: Team USA Women Who Must Lead Way
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

The United States women's basketball team were able to escape a tough game against Australia in the semifinals and will now face off with France for a chance at a fifth consecutive gold medal. The Americans are favored to do exactly that.

They can't take France lightly, however. Like Team USA, the French remain undefeated in the tournament and have beaten several solid opponents en route to the gold-medal match. So let's look at three American stars who will have to lead the way to victory.

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Tina Charles

Charles has established herself as the United States' most reliable player in the post. She's averaging 11 points and eight rebounds per game while shooting 45 percent from the floor. The center even has 14 assists in the tournament.

The 23-year-old rising star must establish herself in the paint early. France have plenty of size on their roster and will attempt to dominate the Americans down low, much like the Australians did in the first half of the semifinals.

Charles has to make sure a similar scenario doesn't play out in the final. If she can force France's bigs to use a lot of energy on the defensive end, they will wear down quickly and Team USA can take advantage.

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Diana Taurasi

Even though the United States rely on a balanced scoring approach, Taurasi has once again emerged as the go-to player when the team needs a bucket. She leads the squad in scoring at 13 points per game and contributes in just about every other area as well.

She did get off to a slow start against Australia, though. Look for her to come out aggressive against France in an attempt to set the tempo where the Americans want it. France will probably try to limit possessions to keep the game close.

It's going to take a terrific shooting performance from at least one American player to put away France. While there are plenty of players capable of filling that vital role, Taurasi is the most likely candidate.

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Sue Bird

The Connecticut theme continues with Bird. She's the court general for the Americans and ranks second in the tournament with five assists per game. Her confidence at the point guard spot is a major reason why Team USA are so tough to beat.

She has been through so many important games both in college and at the international level that head coach Geno Auriemma can feel comfortable knowing she won't let the big stage get the better of her.

As long as Bird keeps dishing out assists like she has been throughout the London Games, the Americans will be in the driver's seat and should cruise to another gold medal.

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