It looks like the USA Olympic women's basketball team is well on their way to taking home another gold medal at the 2012 London games. They have shown utter dominance through the first matches of the tournament and have easily advanced to the knockout stages, with the first seed in group A.
They have not yet lost a game, but that comes as no surprise. The team has not lost in the Olympic group stage since women's basketball was first introduced. Most think they will easily be able to walk over the rest of the field no matter who they face.
There are two teams, however, that could give the team some stiff competition.
There is always a chance for teams to pull off upsets—and for any team that is playing the USA, that is the goal. No team will be favored to beat them; but for teams that have nothing to lose, being able to say they beat the high-powered Americans is huge motivation.
They have the most talent of any team at the Olympics and may be able to beat many other teams with only four ladies on the floor; but nonetheless, they need to make sure they come into every game focused and refreshed, and not allow any team to get up on them.
The Underdog: Australia
If there is a team that could be able to pull off an upset of the Americans, it would be Australia. They have shown before that they can play the American team tough at high-level competitions.
Two seasons ago at the FIBA World Championships, the two teams met up in the second round. The USA women's team was able to pull off the victory, beating the Australians 83-75. Australia was able to force a tight game in the second half, outscoring the Americans by 11 points.
Lauren Jackson of Australia will be a player the Americans will have to watch closely. She has been able to average 15.2 points per game thus far. She is the fifth highest scoring player in the Olympic tournament.
The USA team knows that they can win, but the Australians will be hungry for revenge. If they can manage to get by China—which they should be able to do—it will set up a semifinal match against the USA. The Australians are tied for No. 2 in the world ranking (according to FIBA), and a win against the Americans would be huge for the team, giving them some new-found confidence.
It also would mean an easy gold medal match, against whoever makes it through from the other side. It will be a battle, with the Australians being the underdog. They will need to bring their top game if they want to win.
The Dark Horse: France
Although France finished at the top of group B, they will not be too difficult for the USA to defeat. Although they are a team that is on the rise, this Olympics is not their time to shine. With the closeness in age of all their athletes, it means they will most likely be together for Rio in 2016, where they could be a difference maker.
As for now, however, they showed they are a good team but still a ways off of competing with the likes of the USA. They will need to gain experience from this Olympics and use it in four years time. They may be able to make it to the finals by playing good basketball along the way, but when push comes to shove experience will most likely take over.
The one thing they have been able to do is score. They were able to average 71.2 points per game, which is good enough for second behind the Americans. If they can score, and step up their defense, they may be able to keep the game close if they get a chance to play the USA. A close score late in the game could potentially go either way.
Just making it to the Olympics is an improvement over 2008—where they did not even make it—and no matter what happens, they should be proud. They may be able to move through right to the finals, but it will be tough and not without close matches along the way.
In the end, each of these two teams are still not in the same category as the USA. If they can somehow manage to take advantage of an American team that is not playing well, they may be able to make it a close, tight game. Even then, it will always be a tough test to come out victorious.
It all lays in the hands of the USA women's basketball team if they want to win. In every game they will have to come out and bring it, because the teams on the other side of the court are drooling at the chance of an upset.