Semifinal Stage Set at Olympics, U.S. Looks For a Shot at Gold


The U.S. Women’s National Team is one match away from playing for their third consecutive gold medal and will have to beat the neighbors to the north to make the championship game.  Canada may be a slight surprise in the final four and now have to look at the bully across the field.  However, they have upped their physical game and do not feel over-matched.  The winner will advance to take on the winner of Japan versus France.  There is sure to be plenty of drama in the semifinal matches later today.

One will wonder if the U.S. team is looking forward to a final and a possible rematch with Japan.  It could be a chance at vengeance to take back their crown as the top squad in the world.  With that mindset, the Canadian squad will bang bodies into the final match with the U.S. on the outside looking in.  Forward Abby Wambach talked about playing in the next Olympic Games and discussed feeling great heading into the semifinal, but she will also be the person that helps keep the team’s collective eye on the match with Canada.

"At this point this is the most important soccer game of our lives.  We have to perform. Canada is a scrappy team."

For Canada, this is the most important soccer game.  They have to beat big sister, a team that has beaten them 27 matches in a row.  However, confidence should be high as one of the best female goal scorers ever, Christine Sinclair, and her partner, Melissa Tancredi, have outscored Wambach and Alex Morgan by one goal.  The coach, John Herdman,  may even be playing head games saying that there is something fishy going on with U.S. set pieces.

"One of the big threats we’ve got to take care of, and what we’ve paid attention to, is the illegal marking in the box on their corners and free kicks.  Some of the blocking tactics, which are highly illegal, we’ll keep an eye on them in the game. We’ve starting working on that in training without trying to injure our players.  Obviously they’re trying to free up a key player, but in a very illegal way. … The U.S., it’s what they do well."

The United States goal celebrations have also been a cause for alarmduring the Olympics.  However, this is a Canadian team that has a player nicknamed The Destroyer.  Desiree Scott has been a spark in many ways for Canada, not the least of which is her aggressive defending.  She sets a tone for a team that is not afraid of contact and can issue a quick threat on a counter attack.  The U.S. midfield will have to be surgical with ball control and passing.

A miniature drought for Alex Morgan, not much of a challenge in the quarterfinals, and visions of gold could be areas of concern for the U.S.  However, the back line seemed united against New Zealand and Sydney Leroux showed her ability to be a game changer.  If she gets a chance in this match, her speed could secure the birth in the final match.  Leroux was born in British Columbia and applied for U.S. citizenship just before her 18th birthday.

The winner in the battle of North America will know their gold medal match opponent as Japan and France will have concluded at Wembley Stadium.  Japan handed Brazil a 2-0 loss while France got past Sweden.  Japan has their eyes on backing up the World Cup victory last year that came while the country suffered from the tragedy of the tsunami.  An Olympic victory is a continuation of the sport in Japan.

For France, they are on a three game winning streak after falling to the U.S. in the opening match of group play.   They were a surprise in the semifinals of the World Cup but have played like they belonged since.  They beat Japan in a final warm up match before the Olympics, but the stakes are different now.

To stick with our initial predictions, France will pull of the mild upset while Canada will not.  However, the current scoreless streak held by Hope Solo and the U.S. squad is in definite jeopardy.  The U.S. team had some trouble closing out North Korea and New Zealand, but they will need more than one goal to advance to the final.  If the U.S. can net three they should be assured a chance at gold. 

Japan and France kick off in Wembley Stadium just after Noon eastern time with the USWNT and Canada to follow.