Four big questions for soccer’s four Olympic semifinals

Japan 2020

Megan Rapinoe of Team USA and Hanna Glas of Sweden battle for the ball in group play at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Tokyo Stadium on July 21, 2021 in Chofu, Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Berengui/DeFodi Images via Getty Images) Credit: (Photo by Berengui/DeFodi Images via Getty Images)

Who is going to score for the United States versus Canada?

United States v Canada -4am EDT Monday STREAM LIVE ]

The question above carries a different tone than it is recent years, when Alex MorganMegan RapinoeCarli Lloyd, and any number of USA stars were often competing to see not just who would score in a given game, but who would score the most.

Not so much in Tokyo, where the United States women’s national team has been shutout twice and scored six of its eight goals in one game.

Now for the Americans thinking optimistically, the United States women have lost just once in 27 matches under Vlatko Andonovski, winning 23 times.

For those in any other camp, the team that came to Tokyo on a 44-match unbeaten run spanning two coaches, has won exactly one match over 90 or 120 minutes to start life in Tokyo.

Team icon Rapinoe has been shockingly unproductive aside from the brilliant penalty that ended the quarterfinal win over the Netherlands. Lloyd was very good against New Zealand and Morgan also scored in that match, but the team leader for goals in Tokyo is a tie between Lynn Williams and “own goal.”

Back on the optimism train, fans could note that the three stars above seem overdue to deliver goals against a Canada team that’s managed just seven wins and three draws versus the U.S. in 61 matches all-time.

That said, one of those wins came in the knockout rounds of the 2012 Olympics and saw the U.S. get a call so beneficial that Canada and world all-time leading international scorer Christine Sinclair will still be carrying an grudge. This should be a beauty.

Can Sweden again outscore Sam Kerr, er, Australia?

Australia v Sweden – 7am EDT Monday STREAM LIVE ]

Standing between Sweden and its second-straight Olympic gold medal game is Australia, a team it hasn’t faced in… about eight days.

Sweden’s incredible tournament includes a 4-2 defeat of Australia in group play, the only match that saw Sweden trail at any point in a match (all of 30 minutes plus halftime, but trail they did).

Australia has never played for an Olympic medal and knows it will play for either gold or bronze in a few days time, but will feel buoyed by a June friendly draw with the Australians in Sweden.

They’ll also love the form of their best player. The five goals from Chelsea star Sam Kerr are the most of any player still alive for a gold.

Will Japan feel the pressure on home soil?

Japan v Spain – 7am EDT Tuesday STREAM LIVE ]

So far, Japan has been brilliant to watch as a neutral and been difficult to breakdown for the opposition, allowing just one goal through four games.

And the team will be thrilled at the play of 20-year-old Takefusa Kubo, the winger who was recruited by the biggest teams in the world before signing with Real Madrid at the age of 18 but has not quite seen his club career reach expectations.

Kubo has three goals and will be familiar with many of the players he’ll see on Tuesday, as Spain brought a loaded roster to Tokyo and can score hatfuls of goals.

And will the knowledge that Japan is one win away from playing for gold on home soil become an impediment? Perhaps, but not as big of an impediment as Dani OlmoPedriPau Torres, and Spain.

Which of the last two men’s gold medalists will prevail?

Mexico v Brazil – 4am EDT Tuesday STREAM LIVE ]

Brazil has won a medal in three-straight Olympics, but its silver in 2012 came after losing to a loaded Mexico in the final.

The Brazilians took gold four years later on home soil, and have multiple candidates for player of the tournament in Everton star Richarlison and Hertha Berlin’s Matheus Cunha.

But Mexico’s only loss of these Games came to a very strong Japan, and the North American side rolled up favored France and waltzed past South Africa and South Korea.

All eyes will be on this one, where flair and tenacity will be doled out in heaping helpings.

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