Olympic football final

Brazil – Mexico

Men’s Football Tournament at the 2012 Olympics reaches its conclusion with Brazil and Mexico chasing their first ever Olympic gold at Wembley Stadium in London.

Even before the tournament started, Mano Menezes’ side were seen as one of the main candidates for the title, having arrived to Great Britain with a star-studded squad.

Following the 3-0 semi-final win over very good South Korea side, Brazil will fancy their chances in this match, even if the pressure will be on them given that Mexico have nothing to lose.

Star forward Hulk should return to the starting line-up after being rested in the semis, with Alex Sandro dropping out.

Probable starting line-up (4-3-3): Neto – Rafael, Thiago Silva, Juan, Marcelo – Sandro, Romulo, Oscar – Hulk, Damiao, Neymar.

Mexico arrived to the 2012 Summer Games with excellent reputation, having won the Pan American Games and Toulon Youth Tournament with virtually the same squad that traveled to the Olympics.

El Tri progressed from the group stage without conceding a single goal, but they were made to work hard for victories over Senegal and Japan in the knockout stages.

Luis Tena’s side showed a lot of character by beating Senegal after extra time and defeating Japan after coming from a goal down, so they certainly cannot be written off before the clash with Brazil.

Luis Tena is unlikely to make changes to the side that largely impressed against Japan, meaning Oribe Peralta and Giovani dos Santos will form the attacking partnership.

Probable starting line-up (4-4-2): Corona – Jimenez, Mier, Reyes, Chavez – Fabian, Enriquez, Salcido, Fabian – Dos Santos, Peralta.

MEXICO VS JAPAN PREVIEW

Mexico aim to continue their unbeaten run and make it to the 2012 Olympics final at the expense of Japan, a team that have been the biggest surprise package of the tournament.

Arriving to the Summer Games with the team that had already won Pan American Games and Toulon Youth Tournament, Mexico were always seen as one of the outside favourites for the trophy.

El Tri had a somewhat slow start as they could only muster a goalless draw against South Korea, but impressive victories over Gabon and Switzerland saw them win the first place in their group.

After reaching the quarter-finals without conceding a single goal, Luis Tena’s side were made to work hard for the win against Senegal, but they scored two extra-time goals to record a 4-2 win after their opponents came back from two goals down to earn a 2-2 draw in regular time.

Boss Luis Tena is unlikely to make changes to the side that beat Senegal, with Giovani dos Santos set to keep his place in the starting line-up.

Probable starting line-up (4-2-3-1): Corona – Reyes, Jimenez, Mier, Chavez – Enriquez, Salcido – Aquino, Fabian, Dos Santos – Peralta.

Japan kept a low profile when arriving to the Men’s Football Tournament at the 2012 Summer Games, and they were not even expected to progress from the group stage.

However, the Blue Samurai not only beat Spain in their opening game, but completely outclassed one of the main candidates for the trophy and they have never looked back since.

Having beaten Morocco in their second game, the goalless draw against Honduras proved enough for a place in the quarter-finals, where Japan recorded a 3-0 victory over very good Egypt side.

Given that striker Kensuke Nagai has recovered from a thigh problem, boss Takashi Sekizuka is set to field an unchanged line-up.

Probable starting line-up (4-3-3): Gonda – Tokunaga, H. Sakai, Yoshida, Suzuki – Ogihara, Higashi, Yamaguchi – Otsu, Nagai, Kiyotake

Olympic Games Women » Brazil W – Japan W

Coach of Japan women’s soccer team admits telling players not to win against South Africa

Japan women’s soccer coach Norio Sasaki. (Getty)

Following Tuesday’s Olympic badminton scandal in which eight female doubles players were disqualified for trying to lose matches to rig a preferred place in the tournament, Japan women’s soccer coach Norio Sasaki has admitted that he told his players not to win their final group-stage match against last-place South Africa. But instead of trying to lose, Sasaki, who led Japan to its first Women’s World Cup title last year, merely wanted a draw, which Japan got when the match ended 0-0. This helped ensure that his side would finish second in Group F and remain in Cardiff for its quarterfinal match against Brazil instead of traveling 400 miles to Glasgow, where group winners Sweden will play its quarterfinal against France on Friday.

From the AP:

“It was a different way of playing compared to the usual game, but the players were on the same page as me,” he said.

He said [he] introduced one striker, Yuki Ogimi, late in the match, so “we could take one goal back” if South Africa, one of the weakest teams in the competition, was lucky enough to score.

“I feel sorry we couldn’t show a respectable game, but it’s my responsibility, not the players’, why the game was like that. It was important for us not to move to Glasgow.”

FIFA has already announced that Japan will not be punished for this strategy, stating that “there are no sufficient elements to start disciplinary proceedings” for “unlawfully influencing match results.” Strategically playing for a draw by taking up a more defensive approach (known as “parking the bus”) is a fairly common tactic, but one usually employed by weaker teams that can’t compete with their opponents’ more dangerous attack. It is also one with which all managers do not agree.

Asked if she would ever have her team do as Japan did, U.S. coach Pia Sundhage was clear in her response. From the AP:

“Absolutely not. Never ever crossed my mind,” coach Pia Sundhage said. “Because I think: Respect the game, respect this wonderful tournament and respect the team. … We want to win. If we have that approach to every game, I think we’re in the best mindset.”

If Sasaki’s strategizing pays off or backfires now that Japan must resume actually trying to win will determine whether that criticism quiets down or intensifies. Either way, a knockout match against Brazil is rarely something teams try to arrange.

OLYMPIC FOOTBALL

BRAZIL VS BELARUS PREVIEW

Having recorded a hard-fought victory over Egypt in their opening game, the tournament favourites could be in for another difficult task, this time against dark horses Belarus.

The predictions seemed spot on when they scored three goals inside the first period in the opening game against Egypt, but two second-half goals from the Pharaohs made them sweat in the final 15 minutes of the match.

The clash against Egypt should serve as warning that Brazil need to take every opponent seriously if they want to win their first ever Olympic gold, and we are yet to see how the team will respond against Belarus.

Mano Menezes is likely to stick to the same side that beat Egypt and he is only expected to experiment in the final group game against New Zealand.

Probable starting line-up (4-3-3): Neto – Rafael, Thiago Silva, Juan, Marcelo – Oscar, Sandro, Romulo – Hulk, Leandro Damiao, Neymar.

Belarus may be making their first appearance at the Summer Olympics, but nobody is really surprised to see the Red Devils in London.

The former Russian republic have become famous for their excellent work in youth categories and most of their youth sides are regular at tournament finals.

Belarus Olympic squad have done well to mastermind a 1-0 victory over New Zealand in their opening game, although they scored the only goal from a set-piece.

The Red Devils are expected to line up in a 4-5-1 formation with former Zenit star Sergei Kornilenko set to be deployed as a lone striker.

Probable starting line-up (4-5-1): Gutor – Kozlov, Politevich, Polyakov, Kuzmianok- Solovey, Renan, Dragun, Baga, Gordeychuk – Kornilenko.

SENEGAL VS URUGUAY PREVIEW

Senegal did well to keep their qualifying hopes alive by holding hosts Great Britain to a 1-1 draw, but they now face another tricky tie against one of the tournament favourites.

Uruguay experienced major problems in what should have been an easy game against UAE, but Oscar Tabarez’s side did record an important victory after coming from a goal down.

The Teranga Lions were virtually written off after Demba Ba, Papiss Cisse and Dame N’Doye were ruled out of the tournament, but their opening game showed Senegal are not there only to make the numbers.

Abdoukarime Diouf’s side worked really hard throughout the game and fought valiantly for every single ball, and the equalizer scored by Moussa Konate was ajust reward for their efforts.

Midfielder Idrissa Gana Gueye is doubtful after picking up injury against Team GB, but all other players are fit to feature.

Probable starting line-up (4-3-3): O. Mane – Ciss, Ba, P. Gueye, Souare – Kouyate, Diame, Z. Toure – Konate, Balde, S. Mane.

What was supposed to be a mere walk in the park turned out to be an extremely difficult encounter for Uruguay as La Celeste were completely outplayed by enthusiastic UAE side in the first half.

The free-kick goal Gaston Ramirez scored just before the half-time break proved crucial, and Oscar Tabarez’s men managed to win the game thanks to Nicolas Lodeiro after showing a massive improvement in the second period.

The experienced boss admitted after the game that his side were experienced big fitness problems and with the clash against hard-working Senegal side coming just three days later, everything suggests La Celeste will be in for another difficult encounter.

Boss Oscar Tabarez is unlikely to make major changes to the side, although match winner Nicolas Lodeiro should start.

Probable starting line-up (4-3-3): Campana – Albin, Arias, Coates, Rolin – Lodeiro, Arevalo Rios, Calzada – Suarez, Cavani, Ramirez.