London 2012 Olympics Focus – Group C

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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London 2012 Olympics Focus – Group C

As the men and women football tournaments get the London 2012 Olympic Games underway, all of the opening fixtures of the men’s tournament take place on the same day. Both of the Group C games will be contested at the same time, being the only group to do this as all other games are spread out throughout the day.

Brazil take on Egypt at Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium, with Belarus meeting New Zealand at the City of Coventry Stadium. Although the eyes of football fans will be drawn to the exciting prospect of seeing Brazil’s starlets in their opener, the more decisive match in the group could be the more understated clash in the West Midlands.

However, it would constitute one of the major shocks in Olympic football history should Brazil suffer defeat against the Egyptians. The South Americans are fully expected to dispatch all of their group opponents with relative ease, having brought to these shores a squad bursting with potential and much sought-after youngsters. The over-age players – Marcelo of Real Madrid, Chelsea’s long-term target Hulk, and PSG’s recent big-money signing Thiago Silva – bring a blend of experience that should complement the more up-and-coming under-23-year-olds.

Brazil’s strength in depth is shown by the likelihood that Alexandre Pato of AC Milan looks set to start on the bench, waiting in the wings for an opportunity to join an attacking force that has the potential to ignite the Olympics before the opening ceremony has even taken place. Neymar, Leandro Damiao and Hulk are expected to begin as the attacking trident in a 4-3-3 formation, with Oscar – who has just completed his big money move to Chelsea – operating in the role of playmaker and dictating play from midfield. Manchester United target Lucas looks like starting on the bench, but has the explosive potential to hurt what will surely be a tiring Egypt towards the end of the game.

For the African outfit, it would be seen as a colossal achievement if they could get something out of the fixture. Egypt won the Africa Cup of Nations on three consecutive occasions between 2006 and 2010, but failed to qualify for the tournament in Equatorial Guinea and Gabon earlier this year. They have a point to prove that they are not a spent force, and will be looking to their younger generation to restore some pride in their national team. Egypt will undoubtedly have to be well-drilled and organised to keep out Brazil’s attacking stars, but will be looking to striker Emad Moteab to grab a goal that could give them a foothold in the game and the group.

In the other game, both sides will be fully aware that a victory would give them a great chance of progressing past the group stage. Belarus have a strong influence of BATE Borisov players that have graced the biggest stage in European football – the Champions League. They will look to control possession, and try to hurt a New Zealand side that will be led by their influential captain, and former Blackburn and Tottenham defender, Ryan Nelson. He will not be surrounded by talent as great as his own, which could leave the All-Whites looking to goalkeeper Jake Gleeson to be on top form.

The opening round of Group C fixtures could be an explosive start to the competition, and potentially decisive if there are two positive results to come out of it.

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