Olympic Football 2012: Early Preview of Semifinals
As you continue to recover from the wreckage that was Great Britain's football tournament at the 2012 Summer Olympics (hopefully realizing that it's just the Olympics and Team GB football), remember that there are still some mouth-watering matchups to come in the run to the medal stand.
It all starts Tuesday with the two semifinals.
So what should we expect from the two matchups?
Here's a quick preview of each of Tuesday's matches.
Mexico vs Japan: 8/7, 12 P.M. EDT, Wembley
How They Got Here
Mexico started the tournament with a rather dull 0-0 draw with South Korea. In that match, it was outplayed for much of the first half, but recovered to create the best chances of the match in the second.
From there, Group B was kind to Mexico, as it cruised past Gabon and Switzerland.
In today's quarterfinal, Mexico absorbed pressure very well as it took a 2-0 lead over Senegal at about the hour mark. However, the Mexican resistance cracked at 69 minutes, as it let the Africans back into the match and blew its lead.
In stoppage time, though, mistakes by Senegal led to a pair of goals that booked Mexico's place in this match.
The path has been slightly more straightforward for Japan.
Their first match saw the Japanese get a huge win over Spain in what looked at the time to be the upset of the tournament.
A second win over Morocco ensured Japan its path out of the group, while a draw with Honduras secured a first-place finish.
Against Egypt in the quarterfinals, Japan got a quick goal and took advantage of its opponent's first-half red card to run away with a 3-0 victory.
Players to Watch
For Mexico, it's definitely Giovani dos Santos.
The current Tottenham forward played every minute for the first time in the tournament and grabbed the goal that proved to be the winner in extra time.
With three goals in the tournament thus far, Dos Santos has further proved that he is a different player on the international stage.
For Japan, look out for Yuki Otsu.
Seeing as his striking partner, Kensuke Nagai, went down injured in the 20th minute of today's quarterfinal match with Egypt, Otsu will likely have to carry the goal scoring load for his side.
With two of his team's five goals, Otsu has proved he is able to do so.
Potentially Important Statistic
In its victory over Egypt today, Japan became just the fifth team (in the current format) to get through the quarterfinals without conceding a goal.
Of the other four, three (East Germany in 1976, Spain in 1992 and Argentina in 2004) won gold medals.
However, the most recent one, Brazil four years ago, lost in the semis and only got bronze.
As much as I would like to see Giovani dos Santos succeed, I have to go with Japan here.
I have liked its defensive play, while I was particularly unimpressed with Mexico's play from two goals up against Senegal.
South Korea vs Brazil: 8/7, 2:45 P.M. EDT, Old Trafford
How They Got Here
South Korea has had quite the unusual route to the quarterfinals, outscoring just one opponent along the way.
In their first match, the Koreans played to a dull 0-0 draw with Mexico.
Against Switzerland, a seven-minute flurry of goals saw the Asians take the match 2-1.
In its final match of Group B, Korea drew 0-0 with Gabon to book its place in the quarters.
There, it took a quick lead over Team Great Britain before conceding two penalties in two minutes.
After Aaron Ramsey dispatched the first, the team consisting of England and Wales suddenly became all too English, missing the second spot kick and going down in a penalty shootout.
Brazil's run in Group C was fairly impressive, as it ran past all three of its opponents to full points.
However, its victories over both Egypt and Belarus were not without their nail-biting moments: a 3-0 lead against Egypt was cut to 3-2 with over 10 minutes to play while Belarus was able to take an early lead.
The Brazilians' biggest test thus far, though, came in their quarterfinal match with Honduras.
Brazil found itself trailing on two separate occasions before the power of an extra man helped them to a 3-2 victory.
Players to Watch
For South Korea, goals have come at a premium in this Olympic tournament.
Against Brazil, this could be a huge problem. After all, the South Americans have scored three goals in every match of the tournament.
Hence, South Korea will need a wonder strike like the one it got from Dong-won Ji today.
Since he proved himself able to deliver, let's watch him.
For Brazil, the player to watch is Neymar.
That's about all I have to say about that.
Potentially Important Statistics
Brazil became just the sixth team since 1968 to score 12 or more goals in getting to the semifinals. Surprisingly, only two of the other five won their semifinal match, with just one of those (2004 Argentina) winning the gold medal.
Further, Brazil became the eighth team to reach the semifinals while giving up five or more goals. Of the other seven, only two won their semifinal matches, of which just one (Cameroon in 2000) won the gold medal.
On the other hand, South Korea became just the second team since 1968 to reach the semifinals with a goal differential of plus-1 or less. The other, Italy in 2004, lost its semifinal 3-0.
As many warning signs as there were for Brazil in its match against Honduras, I still have to go with them.
There's just too much talent on this Brazilian team.
On the other hand, the South Koreans have not yet played well enough for me to think they can pull off the upset.
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