Brazil was expected to handle Egypt much easier than it did in its opening-round victory on Thursday. The gold-medal favorite is happy to earn the 3-2 victory, but it narrowly escaped a tremendous upset.
The Brazilian team was led by Rafael, Leandro Damiao and Neymar. Each player scored a goal and helped put their squad in front, 3-0, to start the game. Second-half goals from Mohamed Aboutrika and Mohamed Salah brought Egypt within one, but it couldn't put the finishing touches on its inspired comeback attempt.
Brazil will want a better effort the next time out, but a win is a win.
BBC's Guy Mowbray had this to say about Thursday's action:
Brazil 3-2 Egypt. Superb Egypt comeback not quite enough. Loads & loads of entertainment. It's good stuff this Olympic football!— Guy Mowbray (@Guymowbray) July 26, 2012
He hit the nail on the head. Olympic soccer is top quality, and it's a chance for teams to make a name for themselves. Egypt came up just short today, but you can bet that this game has already etched a spot among the Olympics' best.
TSN sportscaster James Duthie tweeted this toward the end of the match:
Watching Brazil/Egypt in men's soccer in a pub.Brazil has a guy named "Hulk". He just got yellow-carded.He's angry.— james duthie (@tsnjamesduthie) July 26, 2012
In the 60th minute, Hulk didn't agree with the referee's call, and he decided to let him know about it. Duthie's reaction to Hulk's behavior adds a bit of humor to Thursday's game.
Hulk may not have scored a goal in Thursday's game, but he was, in fact, angry.
MSNBC Olympic reporter Kelly Tilghman noted Brazil's Olympic history following its victory:
Brazil has never won Olympic gold. This game is important for team confidence. Brazil defeats Egypt 3-2n#menssoccer #olympics— Kelly Tilghman (@KellyTilghmanGC) July 26, 2012
She's got a point. Brazil is one of the most feared sides in the world, but its lack of Olympic success could get mess with the players' heads. Winning a tough match like this could go a long way for their mental toughness.
What Each Team Must Do Moving Forward
Both teams should be happy with Thursday's performance. Brazil would have preferred a larger margin of victory, but every win counts. Egypt was expected to be beaten worse than this, and they were down, 3-0, in the first half, but came back to make it anybody's match.
That gives each team its own victory, even though Egypt's doesn't count in the official sense.
Belarus and New Zealand are both inferior to these squads. Brazil will handle Belarus handily on Sunday, and Egypt will earn its first victory over New Zealand. The two best squads in Group C played on Thursday.
Egypt must avoid early deficits if it wants to improve. It is still the underdog, but this near-upset should go a long way toward improving the Egyptians' confidence.
Brazil is still the favorite to win the gold medal, and you should expect it to "tighten" its game up against Belarus.
This was certainly an exciting opening-round game in London.