Two rounds of the men's soccer event at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London have been played. We have seen some sublime football from Brazil, some upsets with Spain going out after two consecutive defeats and some goal-scoring heroes for their nations in Jerry Bengtson and Moussa Konate.
With one round left to play before the knockout rounds begin, teams will be concentrating hard on giving their all in their final round match. Spain and the United Arab Emirates are the two teams that have been knocked out, while Japan and Brazil will surely play in the next round. The 12 remaining teams have still to play for in the remaining group game.
Let us then get to predicting what the the remaining matches will hold for everyone and who will be the medal winners in London.
Great Britain 2-2 Uruguay
Uruguay and Great Britain have both shown that they can win against a weak United Arab Emirates side but fail to raise their game while competing with opposition likely to trouble their credentials.
While Uruguay can certainly beat Great Britain, they have not looked like a team on this tour of London as yet. They are relying on individual skill at times, and the powerful strike-force up front has failed to live up to its billing as yet. I expect Team Britain to get the draw they need to progress.
Senegal 2-0 United Arab Emirates
Senegal have already played their two toughest matches of the group and are likely to finish on a high with a win against the hapless United Arab Emirates and advance as group winners. Will it be an advantage? They will play the second-placed side in group B, so let us find out.
The final table will be:
|United Arab Emirates||3||0||0||3||2||7||–5||0|
Mexico 1-1 Switzerland
Mexico need to beat Switzerland to maximize their chances of going ahead as group winners. The Swiss too will push hard as they are not out of it as yet. The result will be a draw and a stronger Mexico side, no disrespect to Switzerland, will go through, making the quarters more interesting.
Korea 2-1 Gabon
South Korea are already in a good position and have to play Gabon whom they will fancy. The Koreans will win and go through as group winners after Mexico's draw.
The final table will be:
Belarus 0-1 Egypt
Egypt are going to beat Belarus because I think that they have done better than their final round game opponents and go into the match with more goal threat. Egypt will, however, find it hard to survive thereafter in the tournament as the level in difficulty rises.
Brazil 5-1 New Zealand
Brazil are playing some breathtaking football and have done more than enough to deserve going into the quarterfinals as group winners. They have proved their doubters wrong, including me, and are clear favorites to win a medal at least, if not the gold.
They may be through, but expect them to turn on the style and without any pressure to get anything from the game they will be even more dangerous.
The final table will be:
Japan 0-0 Honduras
The Japanese will make sure that they don't get beat at the hands of Honduras or they will face the juggernaut that is Brazil. Honduras will also be wary of this factor and will presumably push hard during the first 60 minutes at least. If they don't acquire a lead by then, I think both will settle for a point.
Spain 1-0 Morocco
Spain will be dying to fight for lost pride. They have been annihilated, almost humiliated to such an extent that the players competing in the tournament must be wondering whether they even represent the same Spain that has won everything on the international stage during the last four years. They will do so against Morocco after giving a disciplined account of themselves.
The final table will be:
A1 vs. B2: Senegal 2-1 Mexico (after extra time)
Two almost equally matched teams going head to head in a knockout match often sees a deadlock for long periods. I missed the word exciting. These two teams may not provide the slick passing and movement that the hard-to-match Brazilians do, but rest assured, this match will be worth the time or money spent in watching it.
I don't expect a cagey affair, and both teams will score in the first half itself. Pressure on young shoulders will lead to some missed chances in the second half after which the game shall be decided in extra time. I have picked Senegal because they will predictably be better prepared for going through the distance.
C1 vs. D2: Brazil 3-2 Honduras
Others along with me have criticized the defensive frailties present in the Brazil setup. Having said that, Brazil would not be Brazil if they concentrated too much on defense. As a neutral, I certainly will not be complaining if they do not change their game plan from the group games.
Viewing matches concerning Brazil are great entertainment even when most of the team is young as in the Olympic Games. We saw the massive difference with Spain.
For Honduras, I expect Jerry Bengtson to score at least one if not two, though he will have a hand in both goals. It will be a tough match for Brazil, but I expect their attack to more than compensate for a shaky defense that includes the keeper and aerial vulnerability with players such as Da Silva not particularly very tall or good in the air. Neymar, who has been instrumental so far, is my pick to score the winner.
B1 vs. A2: South Korea 2-1 Great Britain (after penalties)
Great Britain's shout for a medal will sadly be curtailed by South Korea. Would Gareth Bale have made a difference? I don't think so. Bale has been hyped a lot, and even if he was present and were to play up to his potential, I think the Koreans are good enough to stay in the game for long periods. I am expecting a penalty shootout because I don't see either of them scoring more than one against the other.
D1 vs. C2: Japan 2-0 Egypt
The Japanese have been disciplined right from the start. They upset Spain in their first match, though I would not call it an upset anymore. Japan are strong contenders remaining in the tournament and have a great chance for Bronze.
Egypt need to thwart Alberto Zachheroni's tactics, something which I don't see happening. Japan will win comfortably.
Brazil vs. Senegal
South Korea vs. Japan
Results of the Semis:
Senegal 2-1 Brazil (after extra time)
I think Brazil are favorites, but I expect an upset or two along the way still. Senegal will be the team that does it to Brazil this time, and they shall wait some more to achieve a gold in the Olympics.
Moussa Konate will probably be the difference in extra time. Brazil will undoubtedly fashion a lot of chances in this match like any other, but the pace and power of the Senegalese shall be enough to thwart Mano Menez's men for long periods.
South Korea 1-0 Japan
Two teams that have a lot of similarity in their games will offer a tight contest, though I do not see both pulling hammer and tongs at each other. With an Italian boss for the Japanese combined with what is at stake in a semi, expect a comparatively slower match to what these two are actually capable of.
The Koreans to win it after scoring the winner in the second half after the 70-minute mark.
Senegal 3-2 South Korea (after penalties)
I fancy South Korea with this tie, but I will stick my neck out and predict another upset. Senegal do not win a lot of medals as compared to Korea at the Olympic Games. That incentive in itself will be enough to make them play out of their skins. The goalkeeper will make a name for himself in this match by being the hero.
Bronze Medal Match:
Brazil 3-0 Japan
Brazil will run out easy winners as Japan do not have the personnel to deal with the swift counter-attacking of Neymar and company. Neymar will have a hand in all the goals and may even score a hat trick, making him top scorer for the tournament.