The Brazilian national soccer team has been a powerhouse for decades, collecting a record-setting five World Cup Championships. However, in spite of its World Cup success, Brazil has never taken Olympic gold for soccer. In this year’s Olympic games in London, they look to change that. But before Brazil can worry about a medal, it must get past the first team standing in its way: Egypt.
Egypt—who has had trouble finding a safe place to play games after a February match between Al-Ahly and Al-Masry resulted in a riot with 70-plus deaths—will be playing the role of spoilers. Since the riot, the country has put soccer on pause in fear of a repeat catastrophe, according to Goal.com.
While the lack of practice will surely be a hindrance, Egypt will try to put the turmoil in the past and focus on a successful Olympic appearance, starting with a win over Brazil. It may be unlikely, but Brazil may have a tough time identifying Egypt’s strengths and weaknesses due to lack of exposure over the recent months.
Brazil should have its sights set on the ultimate prize: an Olympic gold medal. It cannot allow Egypt become a speed bump on their path to success.
Where: Millennium Stadium, Cardiff, Wales
When: Thursday, July 26, 2:45 PM ET
Referee: G. Rocchi
Live Stream: http://eurorivals.net/brazil~egypt-live-30-07-2011
Who will win this Olympic match-up?
The Last Time These Teams Met
Brazil and Egypt have not faced off since the 2009 FIFA Confederations Cup, when Brazil eeked out a 4-3 win, thanks to a penalty kick by Kaka in the 90th minute (via ESPN.com).
In that game, Brazil was leading, 3-1, at the half. Complacency must have set in because Egypt crept back into the contest in the second half to tie the game up at 3-3. Everyone expected Brazil to roll over its African opponents, so it was surprising when the game was tied with only minutes left to play.
Ultimately, Brazil took the match and went on to win its third Confederations Cup. Brazil dominated the competition the rest of the way and no one remembered their near loss to Egypt in its first Group B matchup. Except, of course, for the Egyptians, who will be seeking revenge in the 2012 Olympics.
Brazil’s Keys to Victory
Brazil needs to play like the champion it knows it can be. Brazil’s usual goaltender, Rafael Cabral, will miss the Olympics due to a bruised elbow, according to GlobalPost.com. Neto, who cannot allow himself to be a liability, will replace Rafael in net. The last thing Brazil wants is to fall short thanks to sub-standard goalkeeping.
Each team is allowed to bring three players over the age of 23. Brazil will bring Marcello, Hulk and Thiago Silva. Of those three, Silva will play the largest role in the 2012 Olympics. While he is one of the top defenders in the world, he can also net a clutch goal if need be. Brazil will need Silva to be on his best game not only against Egypt, but also for the entire Olympics.
Brazil’s main key is to remain focused. It cannot overlook Egypt like they almost did in 2009. Brazil should be gunning for gold, but thinking too far forward can be the kiss of death. If Brazil fails to perform early on, it will not even have the chance to compete for the country’s first Olympic gold medal in soccer.
Egypt’s Keys to Victory
Egypt is well aware that it is the underdog in this matchup. However, they also knows that a win is not out of reach. If Egypt plays its best soccer on Thursday, they could surprise Brazil and shock Olympic spectators.
If Brazil comes out flat, thinking that this will be an easy match, Egypt should take the opportunity to strike. An aggressive offensive game plan should be Egypt’s key to victory. If they pepper relief goaltender Neto with shots, a few are bound to go in.
Egypt will look to reestablish themselves as a top African soccer nation in the 2012 Olympics. Brazil, who is already established as one of the top soccer nations in the world, has many of its top players coming from various European club teams.
Egypt may have the advantage of better-quality teamwork and communication since many players on the roster play together year-round, and they will need to rely on that teamwork in order to get past their formidable opponents.
In the end, Brazil will be playing soccer on another level. While Egypt may hang around early on, expect Brazil to pull away late in the match. Egyptian soccer has been in disarray lately, and overtaking Brazil in a game with so much on the line is just too much to ask for.
For Brazil, the opportunity to earn the country’s first Olympic gold medal in soccer should be enough to propel the team through the tournament. Even though Brazil will be hosting the 2014 World Cup, they should have their sights set on the present. To represent your country in the Olympics is arguably the highest honor an athlete can receive during his or her career, regardless of event.
The Brazilian national team should step up to the challenge by bringing home gold, starting with a win over Egypt.