Olympics Soccer 2012: Picking a Best XI from the First Round of Men's Matches

Craig Davies@@cjdavies5Contributor IIIJuly 27, 2012

Olympics Soccer 2012: Picking a Best XI from the First Round of Men's Matches

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    Shocks, goals and controversies.

    We’ve had all three already and we’re only just past day one.

    From Japan’s stunning win over to Spain, to an unexpected Egyptian fight back against Brazil and foul after foul on Team GB.

    There’s certainly no shortage of talking points, but let’s step away from those issues a little and take a look at some players who stood out on Olympic football day one.

Michael O’Keeffe

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    A potentially controversial inclusion due to his error, but in truth had it not been for O’Keeffe the scoreline could have read a whole lot worse.

    With first choice Jake Gleeson out injured, it was up to O’Keeffe who plays his club football in the USA, to step up.

    And while his mistake was regrettable, attempting to punch a corner clear but missing which lead to the game's only goal, he certainly made up for it.

    The 21-year-old pulled off a string a saves, and will certainly be disappointed to have a black mark on an otherwise fine display in the biggest game of his young career.

Maynor Figueroa

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    Wigan Athletic left-back Maynor Figueroa was a central figure in the Olympics opener yesterday.

    The all-action 2-2 draw between Honduras and Morocco proved to be an entertaining start to the tournament.

    Figueroa was at the centre of the action early on, providing a crucial block when it seemed Noureddine Amrabat was about to put his side ahead.

    When Morocco did take the lead, it was Figueroa who claimed the assist when Honduras drew level.

Steven Caulker

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    It was largely an opening to forget for Team GB with a 1-1 draw against Senegal, but one man who continues to impress is Steven Caulker.

    After spending much time out on loan at the club level, he has a new contract at Tottenham Hotspur and is determined to impress sufficiently enough to be given first team chances.

    The Olympics could be the perfect tonic to show what he is made of, and after taking the lead yesterday, Caulker did well to snuff out one attack.

    With Sadio Mane looking menacing, Caulker did well to cut out the promising run and despite the late equalizer, did well against a very physical side.

Sergei Politevich

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    Goals were definitely the theme of the day yesterday, with only a quarter of the teams included in the tournament keeping a clean sheet.

    One of those was Belarus, whose 1-0 victory over New Zealand sees them join Brazil atop Group C.

    Sergei Politevich is one of the defenders who can be thanked for keeping the opposition at bay.

    Facing tricky wingers is never an easy task, but that is what he faced with in the form of Marco Rojas.

    It could have been a different story if Politevich had not put his dangerous low cross behind for a corner with the scoreline still at 0-0.

Rafael Da Silva

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    When Brazil take a 3-0 lead, one of the last things you would expect is for the game to finish 3-2.

    But that is what happened at the Millennium Stadium yesterday.

    Manchester United fullback Rafael Da Silva was the one who got the ball rolling for the South Americans in the 16th minute.

    Latching on to Oscar’s through ball, he took a touch before firing it past the keeper to score his first international goal.

Gaston Ramirez

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    When your side is a goal down to a much lesser fancied opposition and struggling to get back on terms, it can often take a moment of genius to spark you into life.

    And that is exactly what Uruguay got when Gaston Ramirez stepped over the ball 25 yards from goal.

    The in-demand Bologna winger whipped the ball over the wall and into the top corner; Ali Khaseif in the United Arab Emirates' goal got nowhere near it.

    Ramirez has been heavily linked with a move to England for some months, and this screamer at Old Trafford will have done little to dispel those rumours.

Abdelaziz Barrada

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    Moroccan central midfielder Abdelaziz Barrada scored one and assisted the other in his side’s stalemate at Hampden Park.

    His superb first half volley rifled past Jose Mendoza, ensuring it was the North Africans that went into the break 1-0 up.

    The Getafe midfielder then provided the assist for Zakaria Labyad, who delicately dinked the ball over the Honduran ‘keeper.

Omar Abdulrahman

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    Someone who wasn’t well known before the tournament announced his arrival in England by putting in a great performance against one of the favourites.

    Omar Abdulrahman was one of reasons people started to believe a second shock of the day could occur.

    After tangling with Liverpool defender Sebastian Coates in the box and having a penalty appeal turned, he helped carve out the opener.

    His terrific through ball carved open the Uruguay defence and found Captain Ismaeil Matar, who duly slotted home.

    Can Abdulrahman build on this performance, and perhaps earn an illustrious move away from current club Al Ain?


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    Another Chelsea new boy, Oscar showed exactly why Roberto Di Matteo spent £25m of Roman Abramovich’s money to bring him to Stamford Bridge.

    Two assists seemed to put Brazil out of the Egyptians' sights, only to spark a stunning second-half fight back.

    His first showed the calibre of passing, playing a through ball for Rafael to run on to and finish.

    His second highlighted skill, rounding Ahmed Elshenawi before playing a pass that bypassed two defenders and fell for Leandro Damiao to smash home.

Luis Suarez

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    The pantomime villain of yesterday’s Old Trafford opener certainly didn’t let the boos and jeers affect his performance.

    Liverpool’s controversial front man had a hand in both goals as he helped his country to avoid going the way of Spain earlier in the day: being on the end of a surprising defeat.

    With halftime on the horizon and with things looking increasingly likely that the United Arab Emirates would be heading in 1-0, Suarez was fouled ten yards outside the box.

    The resulting free kick was beautifully placed in the top corner by Gaston Ramirez to level things up.

    He was then back to his twisting and turning best as he cut inside, with Nicolas Lodeiro hammering the ball home and giving the Copa America champions the win.

Kensuke Nagai

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    He may not have been the man who scored the goal to down the World and European champions, but Kensuke Nagai proved to be a thorn in Spain’s side all afternoon.

    The 23-year-old Nagoya Grampus striker was also at the centre of the game's main talking point after being pulled down by Inigo Martinez when bearing down on goal.

    A challenge that earned the Spain defender a red card.

    Nagai's constant endeavors had Spain in trouble, with David De Gea having to produce a good save to keep him out in the second half.