They will look to take games to their opponents thanks to their strength going forward, and will likely play a 4-3-3 formation with Leandro Damiao spearheading the attacking trident. Chelsea target Oscar will look to dictate play from the centre of midfield, providing the heartbeat of a side that exploit space to great effect.
Brazil’s pass and move style was in evidence against Team GB in last week’s warm-up fixture, when they were never really troubled in cruising to a 2-0 victory. They clearly have a lot more to offer, and having won both silver and bronze twice previously, are going for Gold at London 2012.
Coach – Mano Menezes: The former Corinthians boss does not have many opportunities to blend his players ahead of the home World Cup in 2014, and is under pressure due to Brazil’s lowest-ever world ranking of 11th. He has attempted to instill a more exciting and attacking style of play during his two years in charge, following previous Coach Dunga’s more reserved and defensive philosophy, which was based around counter-attack.
One to watch – Neymar: The 20-year-old Santos striker is one of the hottest properties in world football, and will view the Olympics as an opportunity to showcase his considerable talents. He possesses a dazzling array of tricks, electrifying pace and wonderful close control. He needs to stamp out the theatrics, but has the flair to set the tournament alight.
The Pharaohs have qualified for the Olympic Games for the first time since Barcelona 20 years ago, where they were knocked out in the first round. Their most successful showings came in 1928 and 1964, when they lost the Bronze medal matches against Italy and Germany respectively.
Egypt have been in indifferent form in the run-up to the competition, winning six out of 15 fixtures in 2012, including a 2-1 victory against Egypt’s senior side in a friendly game in Cairo. In their final warm-up game, they lost 1-0 against Honduras U-23s, so will be looking to gain some confidence with a decent showing in their first game against overwhelming group favourites Brazil.
The chances of getting a result against the South Americans are slim, and a defeat would leave Egypt with two more games to rescue their tournament. The fight for second place could be tight, and the Egyptians will be looking to their three experienced over-age players to guide them.
Coach – Hany Ramzy: The former defender won 124 caps for Egypt, and took control of the U-23 side in 2010, having previously been in charge of the U-20 team. He has been focused on the Olympics for some time, arranging plenty of warm-up games for his side that he will hope have knitted his players together.
One to watch – Emad Moteab: The 29-year-old is an experienced striker with three consecutive Africa Cup of Nations victories under his belt. He has scored 34 goals in 68 games for his country, and Egypt will be looking for him to take his chances in the cauldron that is tournament football.
Belarus will be competing in the Olympic Games for the first time in their independent history. They achieved qualification due to finishing in third place at the 2011 European U-21 Championships, and the make-up of their squad for London is naturally based on this success. They have limited expectations going into the tournament, as their mere appearance is seen as an achievement.
The 18-man squad contains five representatives from BATE Borisov – albeit two of which are goalkeepers – who appeared in last season’s Champions League, facing ties against Barcelona and earning a draw against AC Milan. This big game experience could help Belarus against a team full of stars such as Brazil, in addition to their victory in the Olympic play-off against Czech Republic last summer in Denmark. They have suffered a disappointing build-up to the competition, but will be looking to pick up points against the weaker teams in Group C.
Coach – Georgi Kondratiev: The former Soviet international striker took charge of the Belarus U-21 team in 2009, before his promotion to the senior side last year. He takes charge of the Olympic squad with good knowledge of his players, and will try to make them more difficult to beat, having failed to win any of their Olympic warm-up games.
One to watch – Renan Bressan: The BATE Borisov midfielder has only been a Belarusian citizen for the last year and a half, having been born in Brazil and only moving to his adopted homeland aged 18. The playmaker inspired his team to the league title in 2010 and 2011, and has the valuable ability to contribute goals from midfield.
The last Olympics in Beijing was the first time that New Zealand had qualified for the competition, and they have followed it up with their appearance at London 2012. The Kiwis won all of their fixtures in the qualifying tournament in March, but have failed to win a game since. They drew 1-1 with Japan in the first of their warm-up games, and then suffered a defeat against South Korea, followed by a 4-2 loss against the United Arab Emirates.
If New Zealand are to have any chance of progressing out of the group stages, they will have to start strongly, as their final game will be against Brazil, who dealt out a 5-0 drubbing when the two sides met at Beijing 2008. The defence, led by Ryan Nelson, will have to be well-drilled, and improve on recent results. A first win at the Olympic Games will be the initial target in a group that is realistically a scrap for second behind Brazil.
Coach – Neil Emblen: The 41-year-old Englishman was a central midfielder that played for Wolves and Walsall, amongst other clubs, before departing to play in New Zealand in 2005. He is currently player/manager at Auckland’s Waitakere United, and took over duties for the All Whites’ Olympic campaign earlier this year.
One to watch – Chris Wood: The tall 20-year-old is on the books at West Brom, but has spent much of his time in England out on loan. He will be hoping to add to his seven international goals, and impress his employers at an international tournament on home soil.