The battle for medals at the Women's Olympic Football Tournament 2012 turns onto the home straight when world champions Japan face France, who came fourth at the FIFA Women's World Cup Germany 2011™, in the semi-finals at Wembley. It is the first time an Asian and a European nation have contested a last four fixture at the Games.
The teams meet in a competitive fixture for the first time, although they have contested five friendlies in the past, most recently in Paris last month, when France won 2-0 courtesy of goals from Marie-Laure Delie and Wendie Renard.
The French gave notice of intent at Germany 2011 with a creditable fourth place finish. Reaching the London 2012 semis proves once and for all that coach Bruno Bini's team have taken their seat at the top table of the world game. Their opening match ended in defeat to USA, but France comfortably won their other group games against Korea DPR and Colombia to ease into the quarters, where they knocked out the highly-fancied Swedes. The forward line is the jewel in Bini's crown, as Delie and company are the joint top scorers with the USA at the tournament so far on ten goals.
FIFA Women's World Cup holders Japan opened with a victory over Canada, before being held to draws by Sweden and South Africa. But when the chips were down against Brazil in the last eight, FIFA World Player of the Year Homare Sawa and her team-mates hit peak form and won 2-0. The Japanese have reached the Olympic semi-finals for the second time in a row. They were beaten by eventual winners USA in 2008, but are determined to avoid the same fate against France four years later.
0 - Homare Sawa won the adidas Golden Boot at last summer's FIFA Women's World Cup with five goals, but has yet to add her name to the scorers’ list at the current tournament. However, she will be reassured by a glance at the archives, which show she finished the 2008 Beijing Games with three goals, the first of them scored precisely four years ago on 6 August.
"We're thrilled about moving into the Olympic Village and joining the French delegation, and that we have the chance of a medal. Ever since we qualified for the Olympics, we've been thinking about winning a medal. Now we're on the brink of hitting our target. We'll come home with a medal," France striker Elodie Thomis
"We've had a few good experiences so far, and the game against France will be another magnificent experience. We lost 2-0 to France in a friendly in July, but the result will be different this time. We've learned from the friendly and taken note of a few things about the way France play," Japan midfielder Homare Sawa