Olympics Soccer Draw 2012: Breaking Down Group D
With the Olympics only three months away, the football tournament is starting to enter the minds of the participants. But only today did they know who they would be facing. The group drawing took place in London early this morning.
A lot of eyes were focused on a few favorites like Brazil and Mexico, while the hosts, Great Britain, waited to see who they would face. But most of the world was watching Spain, the top seed in group D and the pick for many to win it all.
Joining Spain in Group D will be Japan, Honduras and Morocco.
The following slides include everything you need to know about all four teams in Group D, including a prediction of who will advance.
Additionally, here is Bleacher Report's overall analysis of the Olympic tournament on the heels of today’s draw. Which players will stand out? Here’s a look at 50 players – men and women – to watch once the competition kicks off.
Manager: Luis Milla
Olympic History: Won the competition in 1992 and finished runners-up in 2000. Failed to qualify for the previous two Olympic Games.
26/7, 12:00 (Hampden Park, Glasgow) vs. Japan
29/7, 17:00 (Sports Direct Arena, Newcastle) vs. Honduras
1/8, 17:00 (Old Trafford, Manchester) vs. Morocco
Notes: Spain is a heavy favorite to come out of group D. The Spaniards seem to be in every competition they face, no matter the age level. They have developed one of the best youth programs in the world and integrated that philosophy into each side, as players make a seamless transition between teams.
They are also arguably the most talented team in the entire tournament with many of their players being regular stars on their club teams throughout Europe’s biggest leagues.
The one potential spot they seem shaky would be in the back. Though their defenders are talented, the style of play Spain deploys tends to encourage them to move up with the attack. Younger players may become overzealous in their approach and be caught on the counter, which is probably how most teams will approach them.
With Euros taking place just a month before the Olympics, odds are they will struggle to fill in their three players over the age of 23 with big names, as most will want to utilize the short break to rest before they begin preseason. But this should matter little to Spain in the group stage.
Prediction: Spain should have no issue with any of the teams in group D. I expect them to walk through without really feeling threatened. Things will become more difficult in the knockout rounds, but there is just too much talent to keep this team away from their second gold medal.
Manager: Takashi Sekizuka
Notable Players: Kensuke Nagai (Nagoya Grampus), Gotoku Sakai (Stuttgart), Yusuke Higa (Yokohama F. Marinos), Daiskue Suzuki (Albirex Nigata), Kosuke Yamamoto (Jubilo Iwata), Takaski Usami (Bayern Munish)
Olympic History: Best finish came in 2000 when they made it to the quarterfinals. They finished a disappointing 15th in China at the last Games.
26/7, 12:00 (Hampden Park, Glasgow) vs. Spain
29/7, 19:45 (Sports Direct Arena, Newcastle) vs. Morocco
1/8, 17:00 (City of Coventry Stadium, Coventry) vs. Honduras
Notes: Japan are likely going to be proclaimed as the second-best team in group D and the ones who can really make a challenge on Spain. They are traditionally a nation that relies of discipline and order in their approach. They are often more methodical than anything.
They were clearly the dominant team through qualifying, finishing with the best record in Asia, winning five and losing only one with no draws. Their plus-10 goal differential was by far the best of any team, giving them the most balance in both attack and defense. While no one else was able to score more than eight goals through qualifying, Japan found the back of the net 13 times.
Forward Kensuke Nagai has scored an impressive 10 goals for the Samurai and will be the main focus of their attack in London. He has the kind of potential to be a golden boot winner if his team can make it far enough. He is incredibly fast and has brought on comparisons to Arsenal’s former player Marc Overmars. He is also strong in the air.
Those attributes alone would not be enough to compete at the very highest level, but may just give Nagai the sizable advantage he needs at the Olympic Games to lift Japan beyond expectations.
Predictions: Japan is not the most talented side and neither will they be the most entertaining to watch. But their control and direct style should be enough to get them out of the group stage. They could even make for a potential upset over Spain if they are at their best.
Manager: Luis Fernando Suarez
Notable Players: Andy Najar (DC United), Roger Rojas (Olimpia), Gerson Rodas (Real Espana), Johnny Leveron (Motagua)
Olympic History: Played twice in the games before, but never made it out of the group stage. Finished with three losses in three matches in China.
26/7, 14:45 (Hampden Park, Glasgow) vs. Morocco
29/7, 17:00 (Sports Direct Arena, Newcastle) vs. Spain
1/8, 17:00 (City of Coventry Stadium, Coventry) vs. Japan
Notes: Honduras is a side with very little international history, but they are on the rise. Their qualifying campaign went well with the exception of a 3-0 defeat to Mexico. However, they got all the way to the CONCACAF finals where they brought the El Tri all the way into extra time before falling 2-1.
There is little that Honduras should be ashamed about, beating the teams they were expected to and competing hard against the best team in their confederation. They may be a favorite to win it all in London.
Most of the squad plays in the Honduran league, which may not make them the most experienced, but certainly will help their chemistry. The fact that they play with or against one another often on their club teams could give them a slight advantage as it should not take too long for them to come together.
DC United’s Andy Najar will be a fun and entertaining player to watch. The 2010 MLS Rookie of the Year will use the stage as an audition for European sides, hoping to impress enough to move to one of the world’s biggest leagues.
Prediction: Not group favorites, but absolutely a team not to be underestimated. Their history in the Olympics does not bode well for them, but it could have teams come in overly confident. Do not make the same mistake. Honduras is much better than they appear on paper.
Manager: Pim Verbeek
Notable Players: Driss Fettouhi (Istres), Adnane Tighadouini (Vitesse), Abdel Barrada (Getafe)
Olympic History: This is the sixth time Morocco has qualified for the Olympic Games. Their best finish came in 1972 when they made it to the second round.
26/7, 14:45 (Hampden Park, Glasgow) vs. Honduras
29/7, 19:45 (Sports Direct Arena, Newcastle) vs. Japan
1/8, 17:00 (Old Trafford, Manchester) vs. Spain
Notes: It is difficult to see what this Moroccan team really is. Finishing runners-up in CAF qualifying, they were nearly perfect defensively, conceding only one goal. However, that one goal was in a 1-0 loss to Senegal, which won the group.
Once in the knockout stage, Morocco had a sudden turn in play, allowing two goals in the semis against Egypt, but scoring three of their own to make it to the finals. There they lost 2-1 to Gabon, which was the top team coming out of Africa.
Which Moroccan team shows to London will play a huge part in their results. They could be the strongest defensive unit in the entire group, with experience centerbacks who play their club ball for Espanyol, Lens and Levante.
They also have the luxury of being able to draw from some of their older players on the senior national squad. With no other competition to worry about in the offseason, Verbeek could fill out his roster with some of Morocco’s best three players over the age of 23.
Prediction: If Morocco is able to be solid in the back and find a little luck up front, they could potentially upset the entire group and make it out. However, they will need a lot of things to go their way, making it an unlikely prospect.
Spain should come out on top of this group with relative ease, perhaps the best of any group team. They have just far more talent than everyone else and their federation itself is at an all-time high. The only thing that can really throw them would be a surprisingly poor finish from the senior squad at Euros, but even that it is far-fetched.
The other team to come out of group D will be much more up for grabs and may come down to goal differential. There is no clear favorite in terms of lineups or style between Honduras, Japan and Morocco. They could very well all beat each other, leaving whomever does best against Spain to progress.
Honduras looks like the team most poised to advance, simply because they are the most balanced and faced difficult competition through qualifiers. They also have the kind of firepower necessary to make it beyond the group and perhaps even further into the tournament.
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