Olympic soccer will open with one of the most highly anticipated group play matchups. Spain comes into the Olympics riding a seismic wave of momentum following its UEFA European Championship this summer. After winning the last World Cup as well, Spain is looking for a sweep of all the major world titles.
Spain is an early favorite to win the tournament as well as Group D, but Japan will not go down without a fight. In a group that consists of Honduras and Morocco, it would not be a surprise to see both teams make it out of the group.
Japan will be looking to rebound after a dismal performance in the 2008 Olympics. Japan failed to win a game in Beijing and only managed to find the net once. Surely they will press as they look to get their Olympic momentum rolling. After failing to qualify for the past two Olympics, Spain heads into London looking to rebound from its 2000 Olympics second-place finish.
Getting the first win under your belt is an excellent momentum and confidence builder. Both of these teams have not had great Olympic performances, making this game that much more important.
The 2012 Olympic tournament begins before the opening ceremony but the action will surely be just as high.
Where: Glasgow, Scotland
When: Thursday, July 26th, 9:45 AM EST
Live Stream: NBCOlympics.com
There is no question that Spain’s roster is absolutely loaded. They come into London with one of the best rosters in the entire tournament. David De Gea of Manchester United will likely be the starter for the Spaniards in goal. The defense will be led by Jordi Alba (FC Barcelona), who will be the main rock of a back line that will be tough to crack. Spain’s attack will be paced all tournament by Juan Mata (Chelsea), who is one of Spain’s over-23-year-old players (every squad is allowed three players over 23 on its roster).
You can view Spain’s whole roster here.
Japan made a couple of interesting moves before the Olympics: They left Shinji Kagawa and Keisuke Honda, who are two of Japan’s most popular players, off the roster. Japan will rely heavily on J-League star, Kensuke Nagai. Japan has a strong defense that will be anchored by Hiroki Sakai, who plays for Hannover in the Bundesliga league. Sakai will have his hands full trying to slow down the Spanish attack. Shuichi Gonda, who plays for FC Tokyo, will be the goalkeeper for Japan.
You can view Japan’s whole roster here.
Spain’s World Dominance
Spain has been dominating the soccer world lately. They won the UEFA European Championship earlier this summer as well as bringing home the World Cup two years ago. They have also brought home the UEFA European Under-21 Championship in 2011, which is one of the biggest indicators for the Olympics. If soccer fans get their wish and the Olympics come down to a Spain-Brazil gold medal match, Spain will get another chance to flex its muscles.
Getting off to a good start in tournament play is essential for a team’s success. It is incredibly tough for teams to lose the first game and make it out of group play due to the pressure of the next two games. It will be difficult for Japan to stop Spain’s attack for all 90 minutes. Juan Mata will be the best player on the pitch and will pace the Spaniards with his passing ability as well as his strong play off corner kicks. Spain will find the back of the net early and won’t look back as it looks to continue its world dominance.
Spain wins 2-0.
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