Bruce, from Markham, Ont., and Li, from Toronto, were defeated in three sets in their semifinal match against Japan’s Mizuki Fujii and Reika Kakiiwa on Thursday in London.
The fourth-seeded Japanese team won 21-12, 19-21, 21-13 to advance to the gold-medal match against China’s Qing Tian and Yunlei Zhao, who won the other semi earlier in the day.
Regardless of the outcome, Japan will come away with its first-ever Olympic badminton medal.
Bruce and Li are only in the medal round because of the match-rigging scandal that has rocked the sport of badminton and the Olympics in recent days.
Four of the world’s top women's doubles teams — two from South Korea, one each from China and Indonesia — were kicked out of the Olympic tournament by the Badminton World Federation as punishment for deliberately losing games in order to secure more favourable matchups in the knockout rounds.
Bruce and Li lost all three of their group-stage matches in straight sets, but were reinstated into the tournament after the disqualifications and won their quarter-final match against Australia on Wednesday to advance to the medal rounds.
The Canadians will now face Russia’s Valeria Sorokina and Nina Vislova for the bronze medal on Saturday. The teams met in the group stage and the Russians won easily, 21-8, 21-10.
No Canadian has ever won an Olympic medal in badminton.
The sport was introduced to the Olympics in 1992. South Korea won the women’s doubles gold that year, and China won the next four.