London 2012 Olympics Focus - Group B
Matchday Two sees all four teams level on one point after opening draws in Group B - Mexico and South Korea played out a goalless draw, whilst Gabon took a point with a 1-1 draw against Switzerland. All teams will be looking to grab an advantage with victory on Matchday Two, safe in the knowledge that a win will see them take a big step to the quarter-finals. However, a defeat may also see a team exit the competition and it remains to be seen whether nerves will take hold in the matches.
Mexico play Gabon in the first Group B match of the day. Mexico Coach, Luis Tena has to decide whether to retain the 4-4-2 formation, that saw Giovani dos Santos dropped to the bench or revert to the more attacking 4-3-3 formation that has served them well in recent tournaments. In Mexico’s opener they seemed set up not to lose, keeping the play tight against the hardworking Korea team. The downside was that the attack was blunted, with only one shot in the opening 45 minutes. Only when Giovani came on in the 66th minute did El Tri play a more expansive game, having two good chances himself while an injury-time Raul Jimenez’s shot clipped the outside of the post.
Gabon earned a point in their Olympic debut, recovering from nerves and inexperience (some of their main players have not been released by clubs), in which they conceded a penalty to equalise on the stroke of half-time through Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
The Panthers will be looking to the St Etienne striker to continue his fine form, with Aubameyang thanking his club for being in such fine fettle for the competition: “It’s thanks to the generosity of Saint-Etienne that I’m in such good shape,” the player, who usually goes by the name of Pierre-Emerick, told FIFA.com. “They let me rest for a little longer than my club-mates, which gave me the chance to recover properly,” he continued.
Gabon will do well to breakdown the Mexico defence. For all the talk of El Tri’s attack, their defence has not conceded more than one goal in six months. An interesting match awaits.
Switzerland’s Coach, Pierluigi Tami, will be looking to his team to improve after the draw against Gabon. Despite missing Xerdan Shaqiri and Granit Xhaka, Switzerland have plenty of flair in the side, with Admir Mehmedi, Pajtim Kasami, Josip Drmic and Innocent Emeghara, so Tami will expect improved performances from the quartet. The Schweizer Nati started brightly in their opening match but faded, allowing Gabon back into the match before half-time; and were more defensive minded in the second half, especially after Oliver Buff was sent off in the 77th minute.
South Korea arguably need to resolve their striking problem. Coming to the Olympics with just two recognised strikers, their game against Mexico was perhaps a typical South Korean game. A hard working unit sent out to stop the opposition scoring, the Taegeuk Warriors pressed and closed down Mexico, winning the ball back and dominating possession. The plan worked to an extent, but they created few chances themselves and will need their attacking midfielders and strikers to step up if they are to do more than just stop the opposition playing.