Olympic Soccer Schedule 2012: Dates and Times for Every Top Matchup
The Olympic soccer (or football) tournament kicks off it's group play on Jul. 26th and continues until Aug. 1st. The quarterfinals are scheduled for various times on Aug. 4th, with the semi-finals being played on Aug. 7th.
The bronze medal game will played on Aug. 10th at 2:45 PM EST, and the gold medal game will be played the next day, Aug. 11th at 10:00 AM EST.
In the 16-team tournament, Brazil and Spain are the favorites to win the gold medal, with Mexico, Great Britain and Uruguay all up near the top of contention. In addition to representing their countries and a chance at an Olympic medal, many players have the opportunity to showcase their skill on a worldwide stage during FIFA's transfer window.
Spain vs. Japan: July 26th, 9:45 AM EST
Group D's biggest early match features Spain as they try to continue their dominance of world soccer. Spain enters the tournament twice-defending Euro champs and defending World Cup holders. Winning Olympic gold would ensure a complete sweep of all major world titles.
Spain is a favorite in the tournament and definite favorite to win Group D. They should get their best challenge from Japan in the tournament's opening match for both teams.
J. League standout Kensuke Nagai is a player to watch for the Japanese side. He will face a tough back line in Spain featuring future-Barcelona man Jordi Alba. If Japan is going to have any success against the Spain, Nagai will need to get behind the back-line.
On the Spanish side, Chelsea-man Juan Mata and Alba are the two players to watch. Mata is known for his play-making ability and should play as the creative heart of the Spanish team. Alba showed why La Ligue giant Barcelona spent a good fortune on the 23-year-old.
Brazil vs. Egypt: July 26th, 2:45 PM EST
While Spain has dominated world soccer recently, Brazil's youth squad could be changing that shortly as they age and become incorporated into the senior squad. Brazil is the far-and-away favorite to win Group C, but face their toughest challenge in Egypt.
While this is the game which will feature the toughest challenge for Brazil, every Brazil game is a must-watch because of Neymar. After much debate about his future, including transfer rumors to the world's top clubs and comparisons to Lionel Messi, Neymar will get the Olympic stage to show just how incredibly talented the young Brazilian is.
The Egyptian U-23 team has had success in the recent past and have a good shot to advance as the runner-up, but they don't have enough to stick with Brazil. Finishing second in the group likely means a death sentence in getting matched up to play against Spain in the knockout round.
Brazil will have plenty to say about Spain being the favorite to win the tournament. With a good draw, Brazil have a chance to get their motors running and prepare for the knockout rounds.
Japan vs. Morocco: July 29th, 12:00 PM EST
With Spain the favorite in Group D, Japan and Morocco will likely be battling for the runner-up spot. Honduras could very well put a wrench in those plans, but out of the three, Japan is the most likely to advance.
The Moroccan side lost in the CAF U-23 final to fellow tournament participant Gabon last year. Captain Houssine Kharja will lead the side as one of the nation's over-aged players. He has spent a number of years competing in Serie A for various clubs.
Each of these two nations has a chance to advance, and this matchup could prove to be critical for those hopes. The winner will likely have a tough task in the knockout stages against Brazil, but just reaching the round will be a success.
Mexico vs. Switzerland: August 1st, 12:00 PM EST
Group B play concludes on Aug. 1 with the two favorites to advance, Mexico and Switzerland. The Swiss are on the odd-on favorite to win the group, with Mexico finishing second, but Group B is likely to be the most hotly contested group.
South Korea enters the tournament having completed their qualifying without a loss, and will surely expect to have success. If they can get results early on against either Mexico or Switzerland, the final day of group play could be quite intense, with Mexico and Switzerland possibly playing each other for their tournament lives. If both play well early on, this game could be for first in the group.
Mexico features an experienced side led by striker Giovanni Dos Santos. Midfielder Marco Fabian will also play a big role in the midfield. Manchester United striker Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez is a big absence for Mexico and possibly would have taken Mexico from a medal contender to possible favorite.
Switzerland sends out a side that doesn't do anything one thing exceptionally, but do all things very squarely. They are a stable side that will cause problems for any opponent. They will look to squeeze out results in order to advance to the knockout round.
Great Britian vs. Uruguay: August 1st, 2:45 PM EST
The host nation, Great Britain end their group play with a matchup against fellow Group A favorite Uruguay. The two are the most likely to advance out of the group stage and into the knockout round. While the Great Britain team does feature some big name talent, the Uruguay side isn't as strong as the senior squad.
Great Britian is the favorite to win the group, led by Manchester United man and captain Ryan Giggs. An Olympic warm-up against Brazil didn't do much in the way of confidence for the Great Britain squad as they fell 0-2, but the team will still enter the tournament with medal hopes.
Uruguay features Liverpool-man Luiz Suarez and Napoli-man Edinson Cavani as a dynamic duo going forward. They should be dangerous in attack, but don't feature the strongest defense.
A result against Great Britain would be huge for Uruguay in their hopes for advancing into the knockout stage and going further towards a medal game. The same goes for favorite and host Great Britain.