Where: City of Coventry Stadium, London
When: Sunday, July 29th, 9:30 AM (EST)
Live Stream: NBC
Men's soccer kicked off on Thursday, and the opening ceremony is now just hours away from the 2012 Olympic Games in London.
In every event, favorites will do their best to live up to their lofty expectations, while underdogs will prepare to steal the show.
Group B kicked off on Thursday with a match between Mexico and South Korea, ending in a scoreless draw. South Korea came into Thursday's match confident after a convincing 3-0 victory in a friendly against Senegal, while Mexico's under-23 squad enters the Olympics after winning the CONCACAF and the Toulon Tournament in France.
The Mexican offense sputtered on Thursday until forward Giovani Dos Santos entered the game in the 66th minute. Mexico surely feels fortunate to escape with a draw after being outplayed by South Korea for the majority of the match. Both teams hope to reach the knockout stages, but neither seemed to find their groove on Thursday on a slippery field in Newcastle.
Following Thursday's Mexico vs. South Korea match, Gabon was matched up against Switzerland.
While most coaches and managers tend to give sugar-coated answers to avoid controversy, Gabonese manager Claude Mbourounot didn't mix words when asked about his expectations for the London Olympics.
"Preparations haven't been going very well. We've had difficulties implementing this program for a long time for several reasons that I cannot go into. But what is sure is that we are not well prepared."
Despite Mbouronot's apparent lack of confidence in his team, Gabon played Switzerland to a 1-1 tie, and they'll now shift their focus to a match against Mexico on Sunday.
For the Gabonese, Mexico figures to be a much tougher matchup than Switzerland—who is making the country's first appearance in Olympic soccer in 84 years. Many have very high expectations for Mexico in the tournament, but manager Luis Fernando Tena Garduno is focused on his own team, instead of the rest of the field.
"I just want the team to play at its maximum level and leave a good impression on the world about Mexican football ... The important thing is we have a good tournament with the team playing well and playing together. In Mexico, there are raised expectations about our chances because we won the CONCACAF ... I feel we will match the expectations about playing good football, rather than any about winning the tournament."
Tena Garduno seems to have his team's mentality in a good place, and they'll need to keep that focus as they enter Sunday's match against Gabon as heavy favorites.
Although most expect Mexico to come away with a relatively easy victory, Gabon proved to be a worthy opponent against Switzerland, which was also favored entering Thursday's match. If Mexico chooses to keep Dos Santos on the bench to start the match and the offense stumbles out of the gates, the Gabonese have the pieces to steal the game.
Both teams possess stingy defenses, so the game may come down to which star shines brighter—Dos Santos or Gabon's goal-scoring machine, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
Many questions remain regarding the two squads with very different expectations, but they'll all be answered on Sunday morning.