The group favourites Brazil recorded an expected victory in the opening round of fixtures in the London 2012 Olympic football tournament, but the result was much closer than could have been predicted at half time following an impressive Egyptian comeback. In the other Group C game, Belarus picked up a precious three points against New Zealand.
Dmitry Baga was the match-winner for Belarus, heading home in the first half to secure a 1-0 victory. The fluid passing style of the Eastern Europeans helped them dominate the opening period, and they were able to withstand the rallying All Whites in the second half to see out the game.
Belarus’ victory will give them great hope of progressing out of the group stage, although they now face overwhelming favourites Brazil in their next game. They must stick to their principles of ball retention when they gain possession, otherwise it will be incredibly difficult to gain a foothold against the Selecao, who will be looking to attack with intent at all opportunities.
The South Americans were rampant in the first half against Egypt, racing into a 3-0 lead before the break. Oscar was dictating play from midfield, whilst Neymar, Leandro and Hulk were a constant menace. Although Brazil lined up in a 4-4-2, the formation was fluid and allowed their flair players to roam forward and express themselves.
Chelsea fans will be excited at the prospect of seeing Oscar in a blue shirt next season, as the 20-year-old imposed himself on the game, showcasing his desire for possession and providing assists for the first two goals for Rafael da Silva and Leandro. Neymar added a third before Egypt’s fightback, which saw them pull the score back to 3-2 with 15 minutes remaining.
Belarus will look to take heart from Brazil’s defensive frailties that were evident alongside the array of offensive weaponry that Mano Menezes has at his disposal. The Brazil Coach must surely work on this aspect of his side as he builds his team for the next World Cup. Belarus will enter Sunday’s game with little expectation, which could prove dangerous for their heavyweight opponents if they are not tight at the back.
The other Group C game between Egypt and New Zealand could see the losing side eliminated from the tournament. Both countries will be buoyed by their improved second half showings in the opening fixtures, but perhaps Egypt will be on more of a high following their performance against Brazil.
Captain Mohamed Aboutrika sparked the comeback on Thursday, and his teammates will be looking to him for inspiration once again in a game that could reignite their involvement in this Olympic tournament. Should the Pharoahs emerge victorious, they will go into their final match against Belarus with a great chance of progression.
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