Olympics Men's Football Final & Bronze Match: Key Battles and Players to Watch

Daniel Edwards@@DanEdwardsGoalFeatured ColumnistAugust 20, 2016

Brazil's Gabriel Jesus is congratulated after scoring his side's second goal during a semi-final match of the men's Olympic football tournament between Brazil and Honduras at the Maracana stadium in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Wednesday Aug. 17, 2016. (AP Photo/Silvia Izquierdo)
Silvia Izquierdo/Associated Press

Honduras vs. Nigeria

5 p.m. BST/1 p.m. local time/12 p.m. ET, Mineirao, Belo Horizonte 

The third-place play-off in any major football tournament is usually a big anti-climax. But the Olympic Games is no normal competition. The bronze medal and national pride is up for grabs, and Honduras and Nigeria will be desperate to triumph. 

Both beaten semi-finalists will have a point to prove after failing to overcome the form book against the two favourites. The Central Americans' cagey playing style was blown apart by rampant Brazil, while the Super Eagles were perhaps unlucky to go down to Germany after matching the eventual winners across the 90 minutes. 

     

Road to the bronze medal match

Honduras 

Group D: 3-2 vs. Algeria

Group D: 1-2 vs. Portugal

Group D: 1-1 vs. Argentina

Quarter-final: 1-0 vs. South Korea

Semi-final: 0-6 vs. Brazil

     

Nigeria

Group B: 5-4 vs. Japan

Group B: 1-0 vs. Sweden    

Group B: 0-2 vs. Colombia

Quarter-final: 2-0 vs. Denmark

Semi-final: 0-2 vs. Germany

     

Player to watch 

He has been Honduras' stand-out player throughout the improbable run to the Olympic semis, and now Anthony Lozano is looking for one more big performance to seal his country's first-ever football medal. 

BRASILIA, BRAZIL - AUGUST 10: Vega Leandro #16 of Argentina and Lozano Anthony #9 of Honduras during the Group D match between Argentina and Honduras on Day 5 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at Mane Garrincha Stadium on August 10, 2016 in Brasilia, Brazil.
Celso Junior/Getty Images

The Tenerife striker barely touched the ball as Honduras were overrun against Brazil. But there is no doubt about his talent, and if Nigeria allow their opponents to play he is the man who can make the Super Eagles sweat. 

     

Key battles 

Bryan Acosta vs. Jon Obi Mikel. The two captains go head-to-head on Saturday, in a midfield battle that will shape the fate of this bronze medal clash. Mikel has all the experience, but Acosta has proved himself a feisty competitor over the course of the games and will have no qualms about taking on the Chelsea star. 

     

Brazil vs. Germany

9.30 p.m. BST/5.30 p.m. local time/4.30 p.m. ET, Estadio Maracana, Rio de Janeiro 

Eraldo Peres/Associated Press

It is the match all of Brazil has been dreaming of since Rio de Janeiro was first announced as the host of the 2016 Olympic Games. Rogerio Micale's team have battled through to the final, and a win on Saturday will clinch the nation's first-ever gold in the men's football competition. 

Neymar and his team, however, will not have it easy. Germany have proved a more than accomplished team on the way to the gold-medal match, tightening up early defensive problems to waltz through the second half of the tournament. 

A potent mix of youth and more experienced heads has brought the Europeans to the brink of their own triumph, and they go into the Maracana knowing they are more than capable of upsetting the home crowd. The women showed the way on Friday with football gold; now the men will want to seal an historic treble as world champions and double Olympic victors. 

Will Neymar continue his stunning knockout form and galvanise his inexperienced team-mates to the gold? Or will the Germans' potent counter-attacking play prove the difference in Rio? And how much will the 7-1 thrashing back in 2014 weigh on Brazilian minds going into that crunch match? 

All these questions will be answered over 90 minutes on Saturday evening, and whatever the result an enthralling clash is all but guaranteed. 

     

Road to the final 

Brazil

Group A: 0-0 vs. South Africa

Group A: 0-0 vs. Iraq   

Group A: 4-0 vs. Denmark

Quarter-final: 2-0 vs. Colombia

Semi-final: 6-0 vs. Honduras

     

Germany

Group D: 2-2 vs. Mexico

Group D: 3-3 vs. South Korea

Group D: 10-0 vs. Fiji

Quarter-final: 4-0 vs. Portugal

Semi-final: 2-0 vs. Nigeria

    

Player to watch

Both in those first fruitless outings and in the flowing attacking play of the latter rounds, Brazil's dynamic strikeforce has been the focus of attention at this Olympic Games. Germany, however, pose quite a different threat, and more than in any other game the hosts must be impeccable in midfield.

For that reason, Beijing Guoan star Renato Augusto could prove key to gold. The former Bayer Leverkusen man knows the German style of play inside out, and while other players have hogged the spotlight at Rio he has been a steady presence as the side's deep-lying playmaker.  

Leo Correa/Associated Press

    

Key battles

Zeca vs. Serge Gnabry. If Brazil can keep Arsenal's flying winger under control, they will take a big step towards their first-ever Olympic gold. Gnabry has been the player of the tournament so far for Germany, breaking at will from the left wing and netting six goals to drive the nation to the brink of glory. 

Opposite him on Saturday will be Santos full-back Zeca, who has his own reasons to put in a glittering performance. With Dani Alves growing old a regular position on the right side of the Selecao defence may soon be up for grabs, and the youngster has done plenty to argue for inclusion in the senior side once this campaign comes to an end. 

Not as forward-minded as the Juventus star, but a solid marker and not afraid to cross the halfway line, Zeca faces the game of a lifetime as he comes face-to-face with another man looking to prove a point as he seeks to fight his way back into Arsene Wenger's plans.