London 2012 Olympics Focus – Group C

Brazil assured their safe passage into the quarter-finals of the Olympic football tournament with victory over Belarus, while New Zealand and Egypt played out a 1-1 draw at Old Trafford. The results leave the second spot to progress out of Group C at London 2012 firmly up for grabs.

Belarus took an unexpected lead against the might of Brazil, thanks to a fluid move that saw an expression of their own composed passing style. The South Americans proved too strong going forward however, and Alexandre Pato equalised before Neymar gave his side the lead from a free-kick. Brazil laboured in the first half, but improved sufficiently in the second period to claim the win.

Neymar turned provider for Oscar in injury-time at the end of the game, playing the Chelsea new-boy in on goal with a deft back-heel that represented one of the best moments of the match. Oscar was again the catalyst for much of Brail’s possession play, hunting the ball at every opportunity and looking to his side’s flair players in the channels.

Belarus put up a strong resistance to their more illustrious opponents, and will go into their final game against Egypt with an air of confidence, knowing that a draw will be sufficient to see them through. The Pharaohs, however, are also aware of what is required of them, and will take to the Hampden Park pitch on Wednesday gunning for the victory that would have a good chance of seeing them qualify in second place in the group.

New Zealand will walk out at St James’ Park against Brazil in a win or bust situation of their own, and will be hoping that the Selecao rest some of their star players in advance of the knockout-stage. Based on performances so far in the competition, coupled with Brazil’s 5-0 victory against the Kiwis in the last Olympic football tournament in Beijing, it seems highly unlikely that the All Whites will get anything from their final Group C game. This could see the fixture in Glasgow proving a shoot-out between Belarus and Egypt to progress in the tournament.

Belarus will attempt to impose their passing game upon their African opponents, who will be missing Mahmoud Alaa through suspension, potentially along with fellow defender Ahmed Hegazy, who is a doubt with a hamstring injury. The Eastern Europeans will look to Brazilian-born Renan Bressan, who opened the scoring against the country of his birth in the second group game, to add to his tally in contributing goals from midfield.

It could prove a difficult position for Belarus to be in knowing that just a draw will see them progress to the next round at London 2012, but Coach Georgi Kondratiev will be seeking a win to ensure their safe passage through. His side has been growing together for a number of years, and may be able to call on their togetherness to overcome an Egyptian team that is in more of a transitional phase than their European opponents.

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