AP Sports Writer
LONDON (AP) - Defending Olympic champion Brazil earned a rematch with the United States for the Olympic gold medal in women's volleyball with a straight-set victory over Japan on Thursday night.
The Brazilians downed the U.S. women 3-1 in the final at the 2008 Beijing Games for their first gold in the sport. They'll meet Saturday in the final in London.
Captain Fabiana Claudino and Sheilla Castro each had 13 points for the No. 2 Brazilians in the 25-18, 25-15, 25-18 semifinal win over Japan.
The United States earned a spot in the gold medal match with a straight-set victory over South Korea earlier Thursday.
Brazil and the U.S. also met in the competition's preliminary round, with the top-ranked Americans winning 3-1.
Fans at Earls Court shouted "Brasilia!" to urge on their team, which pulled away 18-15 on Claudino's block. The 6-foot-3 middle blocker spiked for set point.
Brazil went up 18-12 in the second set on Claudino's kill and Japan simply couldn't keep up. Thaisa Menezes casually adjusted her pony tail before her block for set point.
Jaqueline Carvalho spiked for match point. Afterward, she did cartwheels on the court.
Japan has lost all four of its Olympic meetings with Brazil.
The Japanese will play South Korea in the bronze medal match. It was the first time two Asian teams made it to the semifinals since the 1988 Seoul Games.
Brazil unexpectedly struggled in the preliminary round, going 3-2 with losses to the United States and a three-set upset by South Korea. They needed a victory over Serbia in the round's final match to advance.
But the team rebounded in the quarterfinals, denying Russia match point six times before winning 3-2 to advance to the semifinals for the seventh straight Olympics.
Late last year Brazil surrendered its four-year hold on the No. 1 ranking to the U.S., but the Brazilians were still considered one of the favorites in London.
Japan outlasted No. 3 China 3-2 Tuesday to reach the semifinals, upsetting a team it had never even taken a set from in five Olympic meetings.
Japan has won the gold medal in women's volleyball twice: in the sport's Olympic debut in 1964 and at the 1976 Montreal games.
(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)