USA will face off with Brazil in a replay of the gold medal match of four years ago in Athens, after beating Japan 4-2 in their semi-final in Beijing. After going down a goal early, the US turned on the style and roared past the impressive Asians in the Chinese capital.
The game developed quickly into a duel between Japanese flair and technique and American power and organisation. There was no surprise when the lively East Asians opened the scoring, either, with USA looking flat in the early going.
Lindsay Tarpley failed to get up after a Japanese corner in the 16th minute, playing Shinobu Ohno onside. Yukari Kinga's cross-shot fell to Ohno's feet, six yards out, and, after controlling, the unmarked striker slammed past Hope Solo and into the USA net.
Minutes later, Ohno again had Solo scrambling with a shot from the edge of the penalty area, but this time the keeper was equal to the task with a fine diving save. The Americans looked out of sorts as the half wound down, launching the odd hopeful long ball up to Amy Rodriguez, who looked a lonely figure up front.
The last five minutes of the opening period saw USA finally find their rhythm, and overturn the Japanese lead in the process. First, a low cross from Heather O' Reilly on the right was dummied by Tarpley, before Angeles Hucles roared through for the simplest of tap-ins. Four minutes later, USA were taking a lead into the interval when Lori Chalupney raced past three defenders and thumped a vicious strike into the top corner.
The US picked up the pace in the second half. They ended the game as a contest when O'Reilly lofted a looping shot over the head of Fukumoto, who was out of position, in the 70th minute. Another goalkeeping error allowed them a fourth with ten minutes to go, Hucles scoring her second of the game from what looked a wayward cross.
The Japanese scrambled a late consolation goal in the closing moments through substitute Eriko Arakawa, but it made no difference to the result. USA will now meet Brazil on 18 August at the Workers' Stadium, hoping for a second straight gold medal, while Japan and Germany will do battle for bronze earlier in the day.