With China vying for the top spot in total medals with the United States, the battle for second-best in Asia will come down to the undying rivalry pitting South Korea against Japan at the Olympic Games in London.
The Bronze-Medal Match Criteria
When: Friday, August 10 at 2:45 p.m. ET (7:45 p.m. London time)
Where: Millennium Stadium in Cardiff
The Japanese men's soccer team lost to Mexico 3-1 on Tuesday, eliminating their dreams of a gold medal, while South Korea held the same fate. The South Koreans were unable to score a goal in the bruising loss to Brazil. The losses did, however, set up the matchup the fans have been looking for.
The two teams have been bitter rivals for years, both searching for a medal that has eluded them for so long. It has been 44 years since the last time the Japanese have simply won a medal in Olympic soccer. South Korea has yet to win one. Now, with both teams in the bronze-medal match, one team will be assured a medal and the bragging rights that come along with it.
Although relations between the two countries became calmer over the past couple decades, their rivalry in sports has only become more fierce. The two countries battled for the rights to the 2002 World Cup, but instead hosted the event together, much to their chagrin.
The rivalry continued through 2011, when the South Korean team fell to the hands of Yasuyuki Konno and Japan in the Asian Cup. They now seek redemption for their loss on penalty kicks and look to push Japan to the limit.
The South Korean team has added pressure and incentive to win as well. If they win on Friday afternoon, the entire South Korean team will have earned a mandatory military exemption for their work. I'd say that is added benefit.
With this much riding on the game, look for both teams to come out strong and continue their tremendous records coming into the games.
Prior to the loss at the hands of Brazil, South Korea was rolling on a 14-match unbeaten streak, while Japan had only lost once during qualifiers.