Mexico and South Korea will kick off their quests for the gold in their Olympic matchup on Thursday.
After an undefeated run in qualifying play, Mexico is the heavy favorite to win Group B. They boast a powerful attack, led by Giovani Dos Santos and Marco Fabian, that could lead them to earn their first Olympic medal this summer.
While Mexico is not considered much of a threat to top Brazil and win the gold, they have a favorable path that they can use to make a deep run.
South Korea, on the other hand, is a major underdog looking to claim its first medal in Olympic soccer. Ji Dong-Won and Park Chu-Young could give Mexico all they can handle and make a strong push to advance from Group B.
Since neither Switzerland nor Gabon look very imposing as the other clubs in Group B, the winner of this contest will likely finish first out of the four squads to face the second-place finisher from Group A.
Here's what you need to know for Thursday's matchup between Mexico and South Korea.
Where: St James' Park, Newcastle
When: Thursday, July 26, 9:30 a.m. EST on NBC Sports Network
Live stream: NBC
Mexico's Road to the Olympics
Mexico dominated the competition in the Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football (CONCAAF) Olympic Qualifying Tournament, outscoring their opponents 16-3 throughout five matches. Their successful run started with a 7-1 rout over Trinidad & Tobago and ended with a 2-1 overtime victory over Honduras.
South Korea's Road to the Olympics
Although their offense did not rack up the goals like Mexico, South Korea advanced through the Asian Football Confederation's Pre-Olympic Tournament on the strength of stifling defense. They allowed only two goals in six matches, half of which they won with the other half ending in draws. Despite only netting eight goals, South Korea avoided defeat and will now fight to do the same on the grand stage.
Mexico is Missing Star Power
Plenty of skilled players still reside on Team Mexico, but some of the country's noteworthy footballers will not be suiting up for their country during the Olympics.
Manchester United wants Javier Hernandez to compete in England but not in London. The Premier League club prohibited Hernandez from participating in the Olympics. Hernandez, who scored 10 goals last season, would have represented Mexico as one of their three players over 23-years-old.
Forward Carlos Vela skipped out of Olympic play to work out a transfer to Real Sociedad, and FC Barcelona's Jonathan Dos Santos also turned down his country.
La Verde will have to overcome the loss of what figured to be some of their key components to earning a medal in London.
You're Never Chu-Young to Play
As one of the three exceptions to the 23-year-old and under rule, Arsenal's Chu-Young will look to lead his youthful teammates past Mexico.
The 27-year-old forward has notched 63 goals over the course of his career and will need to be on top of his game in order to match his opponent's explosiveness.
Another one of their players over 23, goalkeeper Jung Sung-Ryong will play a pivotal role to stopping Mexico's high-powered attack. The pressure will be riding high to keep the net safe from Dos Santos and company in what could become a fast-paced game.
South Korea could give Mexico a scare to kick off the Summer Games, but it won't be enough to derail a superior squad. The absence of some of Mexico's top talents could haunt them later in the Olympics, but they should still offer enough firepower to overpower their Group B cohorts.
Look for Mexico to soar past South Korea in a 3-1 victory.
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