The football tournament at the 2012 London Olympics is underway, with every nation playing their opening match. Some have impressed, others have not, whilst many have left us intrigued as to what their second match is going to provide.
In case you missed anything, you can check out my previous article where I recapped all the scores and results from the opening match.
In this article, we're going to focus on two main matches in the men's competition—the fixtures involving gold medal favorites Brazil and Spain.
Both nations had an interesting opening match with both leaving plenty of room for improvement for their second match. Read on to see what took place in the first round and see what we're likely to see from both nations throughout the remainder of the tournament.
Brazil: Won 3-2 vs. Egypt
Brazil kicked off their 2012 Olympic campaign with a win over their most likely threat in Group C, Egypt, but had to survive a late scare from the African nation en route to victory.
The South American giants raced to an early 3-0 lead courtesy of first-half goals from Manchester United defender Rafael, Leandro Damiao and international superstar Neymar, and appeared to have the match at their mercy in the second.
However, Egypt did not simply roll over as many expected, putting up a fight and pushing the gold medal favorites the full 90 minutes. They no doubt gave the Brazilians quite a fright when they pulled within one goal of victory, though they were unable to peg back that third goal to secure any competition points.
For me, this was a match that showed Brazil's dominance, like we all expected, but it also showed their cohesion and fluidity in attack.
With so many big names in their squad—Neymar, Hulk, Pato, Damaio, Oscar, Lucas—it was more than likely that their build-up play and cohesion could suffer, but there were few signs of that in the opening half against Egypt. I think you can credit Chelsea's latest transfer signing, Oscar, for a lot of that, and he is shaping as a key player for Brazil throughout the tournament.
They know that they were careless in the second half and will have learned from their close call that they can ill afford to take their foot off the pedal for a single moment.
Bottom line: Brazil were strong and you can expect them to only get stronger as the Olympic competition continues.
Spain: Lost 1-0 vs. Japan
Spain's opening match didn't yield the same success as Brazil's—in fact, it didn't yield any success at all as the European powerhouse were stunned by a powerful Japanese outfit.
Spain were simply outclassed and were not as strong on the ball as their opponents, and were perhaps lucky not to lose by two or three goals courtesy of some strong goalkeeping by David de Gea and some horrendous finishing by Japan.
The favorites did have to play a large majority of the match with 10 men when defender Inigo Martinez was sent off just before halftime, and according to Spanish coach Luis Milla, the red card did serverly hamper their cause.
One can make the claim that Japan were already up 1-0 prior to the red card and looked in control of the match before the turning point, but in reality, any sending off is going to cost a team. Anybody who says they prefer playing with 10 men over 11 is kidding themselves, with Spain a prime example of how hard it is to come-from-behind with reduced numbers.
Their performance did get better as the match progressed, and they are still certainly a team to watch in the competition despite their opening round blemish. Spain have a strong squad and have the best tika-taka style football in the tournament, making them a genuine threat for the gold medal.
Bottom line: A reality check for Spain, who are likely to be more disciplined and cautious throughout the Olympics. Still just as strong, though.
What did you make of the opening matches for Brazil and Spain?
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