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August 7, 2012
Japan downs France, 3-1, to reach final

LONDON -- Japan grabbed a two-goal lead, then held off a late charge and a missed penalty kick by France to register a 2-1 semifinal win to reach the Olympic women's gold-medal match at Wembley Stadium on Monday night.

The defending Women's World Cup champions will play the United States for the gold at Wembley on Thursday night.

Yuki Ogimi took advantage of goalkeeper Sarah Bouhaddi's howler as she allowed the shot to go through her hands and into the goal, which lifted the Asian side into a 1-0 lead in the 32nd minute. Japan doubled its advantage in the 49th minute on Mizuho Sakaguchi's header.

France pulled within one as substitute Eugenie Le Sommer scored on a half-volley in the 76th minute. It was the first goal scored against Japan in this competition.

Two minutes later, the French could have taken the lead when Le Sommer was pulled down in the penalty area, but Elise Bussaglia fired her attempt wide.

France threw just about everything but the kitchen sink at Japan, but could not level the match.

"I think my players played their best and showed their effort," Japan coach Norio Sasaki said. "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. The mental part makes the difference at this stage."

For the second consecutive time, the French fell in the semifinal of a major international tournament. They were eliminated by the U.S. in last year's WWC.

"We were not good enough to take the team through again," French coach Bruno Bini said. "Maybe I will pass the team on to someone else if we reach another semifinal.

"Today was even more disappointing than the World Cup. In the last 20 minutes we played very well and were even better than Japan. They barely reached our side of the pitch."

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