With today’s 2-0 win over New Zealand, the USA Women’s soccer team advanced to the Olympic semifinals as they have now won all four of their matches at the 2012 London games. The team only needs to win one more game to earn a medal, and need only win two matches to earn the coveted gold medal and Olympic glory that would result.
The stakes are getting very high at this stage of the tournament, and the matches will become much more difficult as the team will face serious contenders. America has had a fairly simple voyage so far, with their only legitimate competition coming in the France match that they battled back to win 4-2. Since then they have easily brushed aside the likes of Columbia, North Korea, and New Zealand.
Critics will argue that the score lines of these matches that were surprising and frustratingly slim suggest that the US may not be strong enough to handle the likes of a Brazil or Japan, but I beg to differ. Although the margins of victory haven’t been astronomical, the games have never really been in question.
Goalie Hope Solo has had little work to do so far this tournament and America has dominated the matches. Also, since the games have been close the team has yet to be able to relax and lose their drive. They have survived and won a good amount of close games and will need that extra level of intensity if they are to overcome a major team in the world.
The player of the tournament so far has to be Abby Wambach. She has continued to lead the team and has scored in every match at the tournament, placing her jointly atop of the goal-scoring table through this stage of the tournament.
The upcoming matches are the defining ones, however. All the pushovers of the tournament have long since been eliminated from the Olympics and what is left are the best teams.
Facing Canada in the semifinals they will have to defend against the other leading goal scorer of the tournament in Melissa Tancredi. Canada just defeated the Great Britain side, preventing the home nation from earning a medal. Such a feat is quite impressive, and although some Americans will be excited to not have play Great Britain on their soil, Canada is no pushover either.
Looking ahead, there is a good bet that the USA would have to face Japan in the final. A 2011 World Cup final rematch would be a great challenge. Japan is an amazing side that plays fast and defends hard, similar to America’s team. Japan won that last match on penalties so it would be quite a thrilling rematch. After watching Japan defeat Brazil handedly 2-0, the defending world champions look like the team to beat if team USA is to repeat as Olympic champions.