Aug 6, 2012; London, United Kingdom; Japan midfielder Mizuho Sakaguchi (6) celebrates a goal in the second half against France during the women's semifinal round in the London 2012 Olympic games at Wembley Stadium. Japan defeated France 2-0. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports
Japan played some solid defense, but has needed some good luck to advance to the Olympic gold medal match.
Japan and the United States are becoming well acquainted on the soccer field. The Olympics women's soccer gold-medal match marks the fourth time they've faced each other in a little more than a year and it's the second time they've played each other in a major championship game.
How the two teams got here could not be more different, though. While the United States has been one of the most exciting teams in the tournament, Japan has been a bit more dull. Japan has allowed a tournament-low two goals, but it has also only scored six times all tournament. In contrast, the United States has scored six in its past two and 14 in the tournament. Ogimi Yuki is the only player on the team with as many as two goals.
So how as Japan managed to get this far? Some quality defending mixed in with some timely goals and a little good luck.
Japan opened the tournament with a 2-1 win over Canada that is looking even better now than it did then. Japan scored a pair of first-half goals and then held off a Canadian rally.
It closed out group play with two far less impressive results, a pair of scoreless ties against Sweden and South Africa. The tie against South Africa could at least be chalked to Japan's coach admitting that he was hoping to avoid France or the United States in the quarterfinals by finishing second in the group.
Instead, Japan ended up drawing Brazil in the quarterfinals. Japan probably played its best match of the tournament, winning 2-0 against the No. 5 team in FIFA's rankings.
Japan followed that up with a less-than-convincing 2-1 win over France in the semifinals. After taking an early 2-0 lead, France cut the deficit in half and had a chance to tie it, but missed a penalty.
We'll have news and features in the build-up to our live coverage of the final in our USA Vs. Japan, London 2012 Olympics StoryStream.