Mexico is in their fourth major tournament semifinal, youth or senior team, in the last two years and has already put together their best ever performance at the Olympics. El Tri has won the Gold Cup and the Under-17 World Cup in the last year, while also finishing third in the Under-20 World Cup, and would like to add an Olympic gold medal to their list of recent accolades.
Standing between them and the final is Japan, who has also had arguably the best Olympic men's soccer tournament in their history, only comparable to their bronze medal effort in 1968, when they beat Mexico in Mexico City. The J-League has attained a level of play similar to that of North and South America's top leagues, and is now very comparable in quality to Mexico's Liga MX.
Both Japan and Mexico are filled with full-time professionals with extensive professional experience in their home countries, and that's proven valuable against teams of highly touted youngsters that aren't playing as often as the players in Japan and Mexico.
Mexico got off to a bit of a slow start in the Olympics, but they have improved significantly going forward since Giovani dos Santos was inserted into the starting lineup. He combines very well with Oribe Peralta, Mexico's center forward, and they should be tough for Japan to contain. Mexico also has a lot of attacking talent down the flanks with Javier Aquino and Marco Fabian, with Aquino having the better tournament of the two players so far.
Borussia Mönchengladbach's Yuki Otsu has been Japan's top performer in attack so far in the tournament, and he also scored for Japan against Mexico in their 2-1 victory just prior to the Olympics, in a warm-up game. He'll cut in quite a bit from the left flank and should cause problems for Mexican right back Israel Jimenez. Japan could also have an advantage in the center of midfield, where Cerezo Osaka teammates Takahiro Ogihara and Hotaru Yamaguchi hold down the middle. Mexico hasn't found their best pair in the center yet, and continue to use fullback Carlos Salcido as a makeshift midfielder.
Kickoff is at noon (ET) from Wembley Stadium, and the game can be seen on NBC Sports Network in the United States.
We'll have live coverage in our London 2012 Olympics, men's soccer semifinals StoryStream.