By Mike Collett
LONDON (Reuters) - The women's football final between the United States and Japan will smash the Olympic women's attendance record on Thursday after a frenzied buying spree for tickets for the gold medal decider at Wembley.
A crowd of at least 83,000 is guaranteed after fans snapped up 5,000 tickets following the defending champions' dramatic 4-3 extra-time win over Canada and world champions Japan's enthralling 2-1 win over France in the semi-finals on Monday.
The Olympic women's football attendance record was set in 1996 when 76,489 fans watched the final between the United States and China at the Sanford Stadium in Athens, Georgia.
The same attendance is officially recorded by football's governing body FIFA for the bronze medal match between Norway and Brazil in the same stadium earlier in the day.
FIFA confirmed on its Twitter feed (@FIFAmedia) that 5,000 tickets were sold in the late rush, meaning Thursday's game will also attract the greatest number of fans to watch a women's match in Britain.
The previous record of 70,584 was set earlier in this London Games when Britain played Brazil at Wembley on July 29 and that in turn was the highest number since 53,000 watched a match in 1920.
A FIFA spokesman said: "We are absolutely delighted with the crowds at the tournament for both men and women - especially the women's matches. It proves what a vital and robust part football plays in the Olympic Games - and always has done."
Critics have long said football should not be in the Games if Olympic gold is seen as less valuable than World Cup glory.
The record for a women's World Cup final was set in Los Angeles in July 1999 when 90,185 saw the U.S. beat China at the Rosebowl.
Thursday's Olympic final, with the U.S. bidding for a third successive gold, is a re-run of last year's World Cup final when Japan became world champions after beating the U.S. on penalties in Frankfurt in front of 48,817 fans.
Although some tickets for the London Olympic football tournament were not sold in the early rounds, the current accumulative total for both men and women's games stands at 1,951,707 - with 569,128 watching women's matches so far.
A record total of 740,014 spectators watched the women's football tournament in Beijing four years ago. With the final and bronze-medal match between France and Canada at Coventry still to come, London's final total will be around 660,000.
(Editing by Mark Meadows)