Olympics: Preview Notes on the USA vs. Japan Gold Medal Match

On Thursday, at Wembley Stadium, the United States Women’s National Team will be seeking its fourth Gold Medal when it takes on reigning World Champions Japan in a rematch of the 2011 Women’s World Cup final. And, as in that 2011 match, the center referee will be Bibiana Steinhaus of Germany. Over 80,000 tickets have been sold for the match, although a sell-out is not expected due to the only remaining tickets being £125 or  $195 in U.S. dollars (WembleyStadium.com).

The Gold Medal match will be shown live on NBC Sports Network, with coverage beginning at 2:00 p.m. EDT. The kick-off is at 2:45 p.m. EDT.


  • Television And Online Details
  • Referee Crew
  • Likely Starting Line-Ups
  • Japan’S Matches (just a list, with links)
  • United States’ Goals And Assists, By Player
  • Cumulative Tournament Statistical Comparison
  • Japan’s Goals: How Scored
  • USA/Japan Matches This Year (list with short summary)

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The Gold Medal match will be shown live on NBC Sports Network, with coverage beginning at 2:00 p.m. EDT.* The kick-off is at 2:45 p.m. EDT. For those with NBC’s Specialty Olympic Soccer Channel, the match’s timeslot begins at 1:45 p.m. EDT, although there is no indication that there will be any extra or special pre-match coverage. The medal ceremony, which will be shortly after the conclusion of the match, should also be shown live.

For those with access to NBCOlympics.com’s “Live Extra” feature, here is the link for the NBCSN simulcast, and for just the straight match feed.

At 5:30 p.m. EDT, the Olympic Soccer Channel will show a replay of the Gold Medal match.

*NBCOlympics.com lists 2:15 p.m. EDT as the start of the timeslot, but this tweet from an NBC employee says that coverage will begin at 2:00 p.m.

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Bibiana Steinhaus, who also refereed the 2011 Women’s World Cup final between the United States and Japan, will be in charge of the whistle in this match.

The full crew:

  • Referee: Bibiana Steinhaus (GER)
  • Assistant Referee 1: Marina Wozniak (GER)
  • Assistant Referee 2: Katrin Rafalski (GER)
  • Fourth Official: Jesica Di Iorio (ARG)
  • Reserve AR: Maria Rocco (ARG)

Source: refereeingworld.blogspot.com

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Japan’s Likely Starting Line-Up — Norio Sasaki, except for the match against South Africa when he intentionally rested most of his starters, has used the same initial line-up during the Olympics:

Fukumoto (GK)
Kinga (RB) — Iwashimizu (CB) — Kumagai (CB) — Sameshima (LB)
Miyama (RM) — Sakaguchi (HM) — Sawa (AM) — Kawasumi (LM)
Ohno (FW) — Ogimi (FW)

Changes from 2011 Women’s World Cup final line-up (see tournament TSG report, page 146):

  • Goalkeeper: Miho Fukumoto is back as starting ‘keeper, while Ayumi Kaihori is now on the bench.
  • Midfielders: Aya Miyama is starting on the right, instead of the left. Nahomi Kawasumi is starting as a left midfielder, instead of as a forward.
  • Forwards: Yuki Ogimi (née Nakasato) starts ahead of Kozue Ando. Shinobu Ohno is at forward, instead of right midfield.

Yukari Kinga, Saki Kumagai, and Azusa Iwashimizu, who played every possible minute so far, plus Aya Miyama are the only players to start all five of Japan’s previous matches in the tournament. Miyama was subbed out in the 67th minute during the South Africa match.

United States’ Likely Starting Line-Up — The biggest question regarding the USA’s line-up is whether Shannon Boxx, who injured her hamstring during the disastrous opening minutes of the France match, will get a start. Another question is whether Heather O’Reilly may start ahead of Tobin Heath as a wide midfielder. On that issue, O’Reilly will probably begin on the bench, as a super-sub option.

Solo (GK)
LePeilbet (RB) — Rampone (CB) — Buehler (CB) — O’Hara (LB)
Rapinoe (RM) — Lloyd/Boxx (HM) — Cheney (AM) — Heath (LM)
Wambach (FW) — Morgan (FW)

If O’Reilly and Rapinoe are on the field as wide midfielders, then Rapinoe will tend to be used on the left, with O’Reilly on the right.

Compared to the 2011 Women’s World Cup final, the defense is without fullback Ali Krieger, who has been replaced by Kelley O’Hara. But, instead of playing on the right, O’Hara is on the left, and Amy LePeilbet is on the right. Also, the midfield will probably not have Shannon Boxx or Heather O’Reilly, with Tobin Heath likely getting the start ahead of O’Reilly. Meanwhile, instead of playing as a forward, Lauren Cheney is now an attacking midfielder. And, up top, Alex Morgan is starting from the kick-off as Abby Wambach’s strike partner, instead of Lauren Cheney.

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(All links go to FIFA.com)

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  • Abby Wambach: 5 goals
  • Alex Morgan: 3 goals, 3 assists
  • Megan Rapinoe: 3 goals, 3 assists
  • Carli Lloyd: 2 goals
  • Sydney Leroux: 1 goal
  • Tobin Heath: 3 assists
  • Kelley O’Hara: 1 assist
  • Hope Solo: 1 assist
  • Heather O’Reilly: 1 assist

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In this tournament, the United States leads Japan in all offensive categories: goals scored, total shots, shots on goal, and corner kicks. Specifically, the USA has scored more than twice as many goals than Japan (14 vs. 6) and has more shots on goal (43) than total shots taken by Japan (41). Meanwhile, Japan has an advantage in the defensive categories, namely goals allowed and fouls committed.

  • Goals Scored: 14 for the USA, 6 for Japan
  • Total Shots: 79 for the USA, 41 for Japan
  • Shots on Goal: 43 for the USA, 25 for Japan
  • Corner Kicks: 38 for the USA, 16 for Japan
  • Goals Allowed: 5 by the USA, 1 by Japan
  • Fouls Committed: 65 by the USA, 23 by Japan
  • Offside Calls: 12 on the USA, 7 on Japan

(Stats taken from FIFA.com cumulative stat pages for USA and Japan.)

Regarding possession and playing time, during group play, Japan had at least 40 minutes of playing time and led possession for each of its group matches: Canada, Sweden, and South Africa. However for the quarterfinal against Brazil, Japan only had the ball in play for 21 minutes, compared to Brazil’s 38, while in the semifinal with France, the French had a 36 to 30 advantage in playing time. As for the United States, it has led all its matches in playing time and possession.

  • Total Playing Time: 190* for the USA, 175 for Japan
  • Cumulative Possession: 55.7% for the USA, 53.0% for Japan

*Taking into account the 30 minutes of extra time in the Canada semifinal, the USA would have about 178 or 179 minutes of playing time.

(Raw playing times for matches taken from London2012.com, then processed in Excel.)

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Over five matches, Japan has scored just six goals. Three of those have come from free kick situations.

  • Canada – Kawasumi (33′): Run of play, following a throw-in, combination play on left flank. Kawasumi runs in laterally and shoots from a somewhat tight angle.
  • Canada – Miyama (44′): Run of play, off a lofted cross from the left flank, Canada’s goalkeeper, McLeod, goes way off her line and into a scrum where Miyama heads the ball into an open net.
  • Brazil – Ogimi (27′): Off a quickly taken free kick, Ogimi runs in free on goal and slots home a shot.
  • Brazil – Ohno (73′): Run of play, counter-attack, Brazil’s back line not organized, Ohno one-on-one with Erika, does a move and sends in a shot that deflects under the crossbar.
  • France – Ogimi (27′): Off a long free kick, ball goes through the hands of the goalkeeper, Bouhaddi,  Ogimi is there to clean-up (although her shot is partially blocked by Soubeyrand, but then rebounds off Ogimi and across the line.)
  • France – Sakaguchi (49′): Off a long free kick, a virtually unmarked Sakaguchi heads in a shot to the far bottom corner. Goalkeeper Bouhaddi had no chance.

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The United States and Japan have played three times this year, a 1:0 win for Japan at the Algarve Cup, a 1:1 draw in Japan at the Women’s Kirin Challenge Cup in April, and a 4:1 win for the USA at the Volvo Winners Cup in Sweden this past June.

Miho Fukumoto, the likely starting goalkeeper for this match, was only in between the sticks during the Algarve Cup match. In that friendly, the USA managed just 7 shots total with only 2 on goal, while creating a single corner kick opportunity.

For the United States, the offensive was only slightly better in the April away friendly, where the USA had 8 total shots, with 3 on goal, and one of those being Alex Morgan’s goal.

But, the June friendly was a much different story: The USA compiled 19 shots, with 11 on target, including 4 goals (braces by Alex Morgan and Abby Wambach).

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