THE DAY REPLAYED – The Women's Olympic Football Tournament 2012 on Thursday 9 August at Wembley has the gold medal match neutral fans the world over were hoping to see, a rerun of the FIFA Women's World Cup 2011™ final between Japan and USA. France and Canada will do battle for bronze in Coventry earlier in the day.
In a thrilling clash oozing skill and quality, the Japanese edged out France in Monday’s first semi-final. The Nadeshiko thus become the second reigning world champions to reach the Olympic final in the year after triumphing at the FIFA Women's World Cup, a feat previously achieved by USA at the 2000 Games in Sydney.
The second last-four clash was an even more dramatic affair: in the all-North American showdown against Canada, defending Olympic champions USA scored in time added on at the end of extra time to seal the narrowest of victories and book a place in the final of the Women's Olympic Football Tournament for the fifth time in five editions of the tournament.
Goal of the day
France-Japan, Eugenie Le Sommer (75’)
Eugenie Le Sommer’s goal to halve the deficit against Japan ultimately proved not quite enough for France, as the score remained 2-1 through to the final whistle, but it was still the best strike on a day of memorable goals. Marie-Laure Delie released Elodie Thomis for a charge down the right and a cut-back into the box, where Le Sommer caught the ball perfectly on the half-volley and crashed home from eight yards.
Sasaki hails ‘goddess’ Fukumoto
“It’s impossible to defend the goal on your own," Miho Fukumoto exclusively told FIFA.com in our pre-match interview. However, faced with the powerful attacking threat of the French, the Japan keeper made a decent fist of proving her own statement wrong with a string of spectacular saves. The pick of the bunch came on 71 minutes when Louisa Necib had practically begun celebrating after blasting goalwards from close range, but Fukumoto hurled herself towards the bottom left corner and stopped the ball on the line with one hand. The breathtaking save crowned a superb individual display, prompting Japan coach Norio Sasaki to comment: “Miho Fukumoto is a very small goalkeeper, but she's like a goddess to me."
One person’s joy is another’s sorrow
The line between joy and sorrow is a very narrow one indeed, and the scenes after the France-Japan clash visibly demonstrated that eternal truth. In their half of the Wembley field, the Japanese players accepted cheers from their fans and celebrated reaching the gold medal match, but on the other side of the halfway line the devastated French players lay distraught on the sacred turf, with coach Bruno Bini doing his best to console his team and begin the tough process of rebuilding them mentally ahead of the bronze medal match.
Here comes Alex
Either the USA wanted to make life difficult for themselves, or they decided to stage a drama near unparalleled in the history of elite women's football. Abby Wambach and Co trailed Canada three times, but hauled their way back into the match on all three occasions. Then, with barely 30 seconds to go in stoppage time at the end of extra time and the Old Trafford crowd resigned to penalties, Heather O'Reilly swung over a cross from the right and Alex Morgan rose to nod home, sealing an extraordinary 4-3 victory for her team. The US girls broke out into euphoric celebration, but the courageous Canadians and hat-trick hero Christine Sinclair collapsed to the turf in despair.
Stat of the day
4 – Sinclair's three-goal haul was the fourth hat-trick in the history of the Women's Olympic Football Tournament. Birgit Prinz hit four for Germany against China PR in 2004, and Brazil's Cristiane took home the match ball twice, against Greece in 2004 and Nigeria in 2008.
"Since 2008 we have had an objective to win a medal at the Olympics, and the attitude of the players to win this game was strong. Since we now know we have a medal I think the players can celebrate tonight. I would like to take them to a Japanese restaurant," Japan coach Norio Sasaki.
Thursday 9 August 2012 (all times are local)