USA TODAY - As the United States women's soccer team moved into the Olympic village Wednesday, the two ambassadors for the soccer teams from the U.S. and Japan met and embraced.
It was a meeting between America's Abby Wambach and Japan's Homare Sawa.
"We told each other that we're both glad the other had won,'' Wambach said of their semifinal matches. "We believe we're the top two teams in the world and we believe our fans deserve to see a great final, and this gold medal match is going to be nothing short of that."
When the U.S. and Japan meet Thursday in the Olympic final in venerable Wembley Stadium, it will be a repeat of last year's World Cup championship game, which Japan won in a shootout.
The loss from last year still haunts Wambach, the 32-year-old Our Lady of Mercy graduate, who first played the sport that has made her a worldwide celebrity in the Pittsford Recreation youth program.
"We've been living with that since the day we stepped off that podium from second place and that's something that drives us," Wambach said. "I think that's what a lot of American people can feel right now. We want to stand up and we want to work ourselves out of situations we put ourselves in, and I think we're doing the best that we know how."
It was a crushing loss, one that followed an amazing come-from behind victory over Brazil that captivated a nation.
"It's funny you don't think about the Brazil game, that it could propel you through your future," she said. "But I think every single person who was part of that team knows that it's not a false sense of self. We have proven that if we do in fact go down a goal, we can fight back."
The U.S. team has been fighting back since the moment these Olympics began. It has come from behind twice, including the controversial semifinal victory over Canada, in which Wambach played such a vital role by counting aloud the seconds the Canadian goalie held the ball until a referee called a penalty for delay of game.
And through the comebacks, Wambach believes this team embodies the American spirit felt throughout the country.
"I think it's very and classic of what the American style and culture is today,'' she said. "So many people, when we got back from Germany - even though we lost to Japan - were still so proud of us because of the way we fought. I think we exemplify what the American people are going through right now with the economy and other things and the hardships they're going through.
"The fact that we're willing to fight no matter what's thrown at us, no matter how many times we're down we're all still willing to get up even if it's in the face of failure. I think that says who we are as a team and who we've created ourselves to be.''
You can watch Thursday's game live at 2:45pm on the NBC Sports Network.