Football is a game loved by young and old, from nation to nation across the world. It can bring communities together, it can inspire a generation, and it is one of the greatest sports in the world. It supplies the dizzying highs of competition victory, the distraught and despair of losing in a penalty shootout, and the wonder and imagination of the underdog fighting their way through round after round and going all the way.
Olympic football has been shunned by many, who say it is a sport which shouldn’t be included in an event as grand as the Olympics. It’s place has been questioned, but if you ask any of the team members involved in any part of the group games taking place on Day 1, you will here them speak of their unbelievable pride and hunger to succeed.
Group D kicked off the men’s Olympic Football Tournament for 2012, and a terrifically competitive tie between Honduras and Morocco saw a final score of 2-2. The result leaves both teams in with a great chance of qualifying from the group and going on to getting their hands on a valuable medal for their countries. Although this game was a great advertisement of why football should be a part of the Olympics, it was the game that followed which grabbed the headlines, and gave hope to a nation.
The Spanish team strolled into the tournament with grand designs for gold. With players such as David de Gea, Juan Mata, and recent Barcelona acquisition Jordi Alba, their confidence will have been shared by many others. Their squad is filled with world class players playing at the top levels of both English and Spanish football, but they were overshadowed and completely outplayed by a Japanese side without their star man, Shinji Kagawa.
This was truly a story of team ethic conquering individual greatness, as Japan ran out 1-0 winners over Spain. This score did not flatter the warriors from Japan, who had chances to win by many more. Spain were slow from the start, shocked at the pace and quality that the team they were facing possessed. It was a corner that would win the game, de Gea once more being caught out with a high ball to the back post as he had been several times during Manchester United’s last campaign. Japan’s Yuki Otsu, who plays his club football in Germany for Borussia Moenchengladbach, was the man to put the ball into the back of the net at the back post, and earn his side a well-deserved three points.
Japan’s next game will be against Morocco on Sunday evening, and they know that a win could almost guarantee them a place in the next stage. They will be aware that they must be at their best once more if they are to defeat an attacking Morocco side who must not be underestimated.
For Spain, they face a Honduras side who most expected to finish bottom of the group by some way, but showed in a determined performance against Morocco that they are certainly not just here to make up the numbers. Spain need the win, otherwise one of the pre-tournament favourites for at least a medal could be sent packing from London 2012 at this very early stage.
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