First and foremost, I do not believe football should even be a part of the Olympics, as it is far from the pinnacle of the sport. Nevertheless, I, and many others, still look forward to 3 weeks of more football to add to the intense, novelistic season and a European Championships that will go down as one of the greatest due to a number of outstanding broken records and unique matches.
Despite the new season commencing under a month away and Spain’s victory still fresh in our memories, we are treated to yet more action as both men and women compete for Olympic (and Paralympic, of course) gold in London at the world’s greatest sporting event. The tickets may have hardly sold in the expected fashion (as other sports rightly take the limelight); however, it looks set to be an entertaining 3 weeks with various talents on display to the world.
With recent gold medal winners including Nigeria and Cameroon in 1996 and 2000 respectively, a surprise in the form of unusual heroes is most certainly on the cards; teams like Honduras and the United Arab Emirates are unlikely to go far at all, whereas heaps of money will have been laid on Uruguay’s shoulders at bookmakers, given their incredibly strong side including the much sought after Gaston Ramirez, plus Luis Suarez, Sebastian Coates and Edinson Cavani. After qualifying ahead of Argentina, who were victorious in both 2004 and 2008, the South Americans look strong candidates to go all the way and threaten rivals Brazil.
After watching Friday’s warm up between Great Britain and Brazil (who I would call the favourites), the gulf in class and ability was huge, and virtually unbridgeable for Stuart Pearce’s side in the few until the men’s tournament begins. My first impression of Great Britain is that, to put it simply, they are not good enough to win Olympic gold; even with David Beckham, it would be unrealistic to expect them to overcome the intimidating force of Brazil if they meet in the tournament.
This brings me to the Selecao themselves, my favourites to watch, and my favourites to win gold on August 11th. With Neymar’s unrivalled confidence and outstanding ability, Lucas Moura’s potential brilliance, Ganso’s control and balance, and the added experience of Hulk, Thiago Silva and Marcelo, it’s hard to see past Mano Menezes’ Canarinho meeting the expectation of a nation; a nation who will not accept defeat as the Olympics are seen as vital preparation for the 2014 World Cup. There is no Messi to intimidate Neymar this time around – can he inspire his fellow Brazilians to victory and relieve himself of some pressure in the process?
Albeit a friendly, Brazil hushed the optimistic Great Britian side on Friday which includes several stars, but may well replicate England’s well known attribute of being unable to effectively work together. We can only wait and discover what exactly lies ahead for the Brits.
Unsurprisingly, there is still another, powerful force to be reckoned with: Spain. Despite the under-23 restriction, Spain, like Brazil, have endless amounts of young, experienced talent. In a group which feature Japan, Honduras and Morocco, it would take a miracle for La Roja not to impress. It is certain that the familiar Tiki-taka will be on display, and if it is anything like that of the side which won Euro 2012, I believe it will be fairly tight between Spain and Brazil to who will return home happier. Featuring Juan Mata, Javi Martinez and Jordi Alba, all Euro 2012 winners, the Spanish are a serious threat. They may well be able to prove that this young squad has the potential to succeed their elders and continue the legacy that Xavi, Iniesta and team-mates will leave behind.
Whatever the outcome, the gold medallists of 2012’s Olympics will not only prove how strong they are at present, but the potential they have to take that victory into a major international tournament in the future. It will, inevitably, be an exciting climax to what should be an entertaining tournament: here’s to London 2012.
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