USA Vs. Japan, 2012 Olympics: How the USWNT Got To The Gold Medal Game

The US Women’s National Team cruised through CONCACF qualifying, outscoring their opponents 38-0 in five matches. That run included a 4-0 thrashing of eventual Olympics semifinal opponent Canada. Despite the loss to Japan in the 2011 World Cup Final, the Americans arrived in London as one of the tournament’s favorites and a group that on paper held only one serious threat in France.

France and the USWNT met in both team’s Olympic opener and immediately there was cause for concern. France took an early 2-0 lead in the first 13 minutes of the match. While the team never panicked, fans were momentarily stunned, like a boxer taking a clean shot on the chin. The US equalized by the the 31st minute thanks to goals from Abby Wambach and Alex Morgan. Second half strikes from Carli Lloyd and Morgan completed the comeback victory and put the USWNT on the road to qualification in the knockout round.

The second group stage match against Colombia was a physical affair that included Wambach taking a sucker punch in the eye from Colombian defender Kelis Peduzine. Despite the chippy play, the US cruised to a 3-0 victory thanks to goals from Megan Rapinoe, Wambach and Lloyd, clinching a birth in the quarterfinals.

The group stage closed with a somewhat drab 1-0 victory over North Korea, but it was enough for the US to clinch the top spot in the group and a date with New Zealand in the quarterfinals.

Against the Kiwis, the US continued their shutout streak in a 2-0 win. Wambach scored in the 27th minute to give the US the lead and 60 somewhat nervy minutes later, Sydney Leroux sealed the victory with her first career Olympic goal.

With the win, the USWNT advanced to their fifth straight Olympic semifinal (this is the fifth Olympics in which Women’s soccer is a medal sport) against CONCACAF rival Canada. What transpired was one of the most entertaining and controversial (depending on your perspective) soccer matches ever played. Canada’s Christine Sinclair put Canada in the lead three times in the match, but in each case, the US fought back. The tying goal came thanks to a penalty for a handball that was setup by an extremely rare six-second call against Canadian goalkeeper Erin McLeod that gave the US an indirect free kick in the box.

Tied at 3, the teams failed to score in the 30 minutes of extra time and the match appeared to be heading to penalties. However, in the 123rd minute a tremendous moment of hustle from Heather O’Reilly to chase down a ball on the wing, allowed her to send a curling cross back in to the box that Alex Morgan rose to meet and headed past McLeod to give the US a dramatic win and a birth in the Olympic final against Japan.

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.