Olympic Football Preview: Spain, Brazil and erm..Gabon?
So Euro 2012 is finished, The Sun is printing thousands of pictures a day of footballers on their holidays and the transfer merry-go-round hasn’t quite got into full flow; this time of year is the precious 2 weeks or so when the Football League is generally a bit quiet. But not this year. In case you didn’t know the Olympics are starting in just over 2 weeks and thank heavens for more football.
There are many things to enjoy about the Olympics; the tube being daubed in purple wherever you look to help people get around is my personal favourite. It’s as if it’s been graffiti-ed by someone really camp. Olympic football however has never really been something that anyone has really seemed that bothered about. It’s fairly obvious why, the Olympics are meant to be the pinnacle of sport and for footballers it simply isn’t. There is nothing wrong with that, it’s the same for Tennis, Basketball and maybe even handball (who knows). But this year it’s different, Great Britain (I refuse to use the term “Team GB”) is firmly behind Olympic football even though the Scottish and Welsh FAs seemed to have slight hissy fits at times last year. The great thing is that due to our great football stadia there are plenty of tickets available, some even give you 2 matches in one day. The bad thing is that not every nation enter a team and therefore the quality of the competitors in the event goes from the Sublime (Spain) to the decidedly ropey (UAE).
However, just like a massive purple sign at Kings Cross directing you towards Hyde Park, I am going to attempt to navigate you around the Olympic Football tournament and show you where you might just get a great game.
First of all, tickets to see all of Great Britain’s matches are sold out but due to the BBC’s omnipresent coverage of the whole Olympics I’m fairly sure (although not certain right now) that all of Great Britain’s matches if not all matches from the tournament will be available to view either on the BBC Sport website or via the red button (unless there is some really dramatic weightlifting going on, in that case it might be the blue button). The stand out game for Great Britain is on August 1st at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff where we take on Uruguay. On show for the South Americans will be Luis Suarez, Edison Cavani and the young and exciting Abel Hernandez. The attacking instinct of the Uruguayans taking on the sheer strangeness of Ryan Giggs playing international tournament football. Could be a good one.
July 29th really is the day to keep in your diary however when it really is shit team o clock (bar one). If you are Midlands based you could spend £20 and add to (probably) a small crowd in Coventry to see a couple of stinkers, Mexico vs Gabon followed by South Korea vs Switzerland or if you are more northern in your location you could head to Old Trafford to see the might of Egypt take on New Zealand followed by Belarus vs Brazil. Brazil should be well worth watching throughout this tournament having picked a strong team. The likes of Neymar, Pato, Thiago Silva, Hulk and Ganso are all included. The only team that can rival a squad like Brazil’s is Spain who have gone for a crazily over the top talented team. Euro 2012 winners Juan Mata and Jordi Alba are both back representing their country whilst the talents of Muniain, Thiago, Tello, Montoya and David De Gea all previewed in my piece last week will be facing Japan, Morocco and Honduras. Spain play in Glasgow, Newcastle and Manchester with tickets starting at £20 it will be well worth seeing a great young team.
Realistically, the 4 teams that should make up the semi finals are Great Britain, Brazil, Spain and Mexico. Unfortunately due to the draw, Spain and Brazil cannot face each other until the final. If that were to happen the talent on the pitch that night could be unbelievable. If Great Britain do make the semi’s then they will most likely meet Brazil on August 7th at Wembley. Who wouldn’t want to see Craig Bellamy skinned numerous times by Neymar?
Essentially, the Olympic football tournament may not be worth watching until the Semi final stage. Senegal vs UAE and Egypt vs Belarus aside, there just isn’t that much to get excited about during the group stages. However, if you want a day out and to say you saw and Olympic event, £20 tickets are still available for most of Spain and Brazil’s group games and you can also still get tickets for the Semi final at Old Trafford which will probably feature Spain. I’m hoping for a Spain/Brazil final as the football should be tremendous. Either way, it might just be enough to tide us all over until the league season begins again.