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Men’s Olympics rewind: Spain stunned, Brazil holds on, Mexico settles and more

Japan (Getty Images)

Much like how Spain's quest for the 2010 World Cup title began, the opening match of the 2012 Olympics resulted in a shocking one-goal defeat.

Japan stunned Spain in their Olympic Group D opener Thursday, making a 34th-minute goal by Borussia Monchengladbach's Yuki Otsu stand up in a 1-0 result at Hampden Park in Glasgow, Scotland. The Spaniards' hopes of a comeback took a hit with a straight red card to Real Sociedad defender Inigo Martinez, who will miss the team's match against Honduras on Sunday.

Japan kept Spain from playing its typical style throughout the game, and with Spain, which is looking to add Olympic gold to its recent Europan championship, reduced to 10 men for the final 58 minutes, Japan pressed for more but could not get one by Manchester United goalkeeper David de Gea. 

In other Olympic results from Thursday:


The Brazilians were coasting, out to a 3-0 lead by the 30th minute and playing with the flair and confidence that has them as favorites to win their first gold medal, but a gritty comeback by Egypt coupled with some Brazilian defensive liabilities leaves questions of the Selecao heading into Sunday's battle with Belarus.

Rafael, Leandro Damiao and Neymar scored in a 14-minute span to lead Brazil, which held on after goals by veteran Mohamed Aboutrika and Mohamed Salah made for a tense finish at Millenium Stadium in Cardiff.

New Chelsea signing Oscar assisted on two of the goals for Brazil, while Neymar's header off a feed from Hulk proved to be the game-winner.


El Tri's cavalcade of attacking stars was held without a goal by South Korea, which outplayed Mexico for the duration of the match and forced a scoreless draw at St. James Park in Newcastle.

Fortunately for Mexico, the other two teams in Group B, Gabon and Switzerland, played to a 1-1 draw, meaning that aside from goals scored, there is nothing else that is needed to be made up in the group table. Mexico's next match is against Gabon on Sunday.


The tournament hosts looked to be in for a three-point haul after Craig Bellamy's 20th-minute goal stood up for more than an hour, but Moussa Konate's 82nd-minute strike stunned the crowd at Old Trafford, forcing a draw in a game marked by reckless Senegal challenges that yielded little in the way of discipline from the officiating crew.

Bolton's Marvin Sordell had a chance to win it late for Team GB, but his blast hit the crossbar.


Uruguay was tested and pressed by the UAE, even falling behind in the 23rd minute, but Gaston Ramirez and Nicolas Lodeiro scored on either end of halftime to give the South American power a hard-fought three points at Old Trafford.

Luis Suarez helped set up Lodeiro's winner, doing the hard part by getting by a defender in the area before Lodeiro swooped in from a different angle and fired home the go-ahead strike in the 56th minute.


New England Revolution striker Jerry Bengtson scored two goals and D.C. United's Andy Najar and Sporting Kansas City's Roger Espinoza each played 90 minutes, but the MLS contingent could not carry Los Catrachos to three points.

Sporting Lisbon's Zakaria Labyad scored the equalizer two minutes after Bengtson's 65th-minute penalty kick had given Honduras a 2-1 lead, forcing the draw at Hampden Park. 


Switzerland's U-23s are among Europe's finest, but Gabon and St. Etienne's Pierre Emerick Aubameyang found an equalizer just before halftime to cancel out Admir Mehmedi's fifth-minute penalty and force a draw at St. James Park.

Switzerland held on with 10 men for the final 12 minutes after Oliver Buff received his second yellow card and was sent off, meaning that he'll miss Sunday's bout with South Korea.


BATE Borisov's Dmitri Baga tallied in first-half stoppage time to account for all the scoring at City of Coventry Stadium, helping Belarus keep pace with Brazil atop the Group C table. Portland Timbers goalkeeper Jake Gleeson was on the matchday roster but did not see the field for New Zealand.



1. Uruguay, 1-0-0, 3 points, +1 GD

2. Great Britain, 0-0-1, 1 point, 0 GD

3. Senegal, 0-0-1, 1 point, 0 GD

4. UAE, 0-1-0, 0 points, -1 GD


1. Gabon, 0-0-1, 1 point, 0 GD

2. Switzerland, 0-0-1, 1 point, 0 GD

3. South Korea, 0-0-1, 1 point, 0 GD

4. Mexico 0-0-1, 1 point, 0 GD 


1. Brazil, 1-0-0, 3 points, + 1 GD

2. Belarus, 1-0-0, 3 points, + 1 GD

3. Egypt, 0-1-0, 0 points, -1 GD

4. New Zealand, 0-1-0, 0 points, -1 GD


1. Japan, 1-0-0, 3 points, +1 GD

2. Honduras, 0-0-1, 1 point, 0 GD

3. Morocco, 0-0-1, 1 point, 0 GD

4. Spain, 0-1-0, 0 points, -1 GD


What did you think of the first round of Olympic games? Do you think a team besides Spain and Brazil will win the gold medal? Did Thursday's matches change your opinion about any of the teams in the Olympic field?

Share your thoughts below.


  1. Mexico-Korea

    If we you believe the Olympic team is just a younger version of the senior team, then South Korea just showed the US how to attack Mexico, which to put them on the back foot and keep coming at them. It was like watching an EPL game. Mexico held up well though.

    Senegal – GB

    End to end, balls to the wall, very similar to the South Korea – Mexico game. However, GB were robbed of a penalty and several free kicks and Senegal should have had a red card or two. Then again, as the game wore on, Senegal were starting to figure out how to play together and they looked really dangerous. Very powerful and fast with excellent skill. Officiating was awful.

    Craig Bellamy, the handsome version of Frank Ribery, was great.

    Spain – Japan

    Did not see the whole thing but it seemed like Spain could not handle being one down.
    I don’t know his name but there was a Japanese forward who missed at least two very clear sitters in front of the Spanish goal. It really should have been 3,4- 0 in Japan’s favor.

    But I’ll bet Spain bounces back.

  2. “The U.S. really needs to look at Japan to see how they are developing their players. Japan, like the U.S. had no soccer culture 30 years ago and has now developed a lot of highly skilled players”

    That is not exactly true.

    Thirty years ago was 1982.

    In 1977 FC Cologne’s manager was the legendary Hennes Weisweiler (11 titles and later manager of the Cosmos). He spotted a Japanese forward named Yasuhiko Okudera on a tour of Germany with his club Furukawa Electric Co. of the Japan Soccer League. He offered him a contract and Okudera made his debut on October 5, 1977, becoming the first Japanese player to play top flight football in Europe, and Köln won the Bundesliga title that year. He played about 20 games that year and scored 4 goals so he was more or less a regular.

    So a Japanese player won a champions medal in the BL before any Americans did. Tom Dooley won a title medal with Kaiserslautern in 1991, I believe. You don’t produce a player that good without a soccer culture. Remember, this was the late 70’s. It was the height of Beckenbauer, Muller, Netzer and all those great German players and teams.

  3. There are 2 Brazilian coaches in the J League. There are 5 or 6 from former Yugoslav countries. I guess they are getting all their skill from Croatians and Serbs. Brazilians are also not widely thought of as good coaches. Think of some successful Brazilian coaches in Europe or other national teams?

    The nationality of coaches of senior teams has nothing to do with the technical ability players develop in their youth. If you put a Brazilian in charge of every MLS team it would have little or no impact on player development. Most in Japan teams are coached by Japanese who do a very good job.

  4. I didn’t get to see any of the first round games.

    Which teams played much stronger than expected? Which players stood out (besides those who scored)?

    How have the referees done?

    Also, which are the top two to three games to watch on Sunday?

  5. Japan is more technicaly gifted than the USA because if you look at the coaches com the J-League, half of them are brazilians.
    Not trying to say we (brazilians) are the only nation in the world that can play a gifted soccer, but you’ve got to learn from the bests to become good.

    MLS has POOR COACHES, ex-euro players with some tactical knowledge but zero technical.

    Brazilians, Italians, French, Spanish, Argentinean, Uruguayan, Mexican…. those coaches would make the USA players develop their potentials.

    Please, DON’T FOLLOW ENGLISH COACHES. English soccer is boring, awful, the Premier League is full of foreigners, they don’t have a strong national team in the senior nor in the junior level. They’re not an example to follow.

  6. Team GB was royally shafted by the Uzbekistani ref, who clearly had absolutely no control over the game whatsoever. Old Trafford was in an uproar.

  7. Wales is part of Great Britain. Has been ever since the United Kingdom was officially formed in 1707 (I think) and was under English rule for at least 400 years before that.

    The issue with a united GB soccer team has always been that each of the four British “nations” (England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland) have independent FAs who are fearful of losing their independence if they field a unified team. In fact, for this tournament, the Scottish and Northern Irish FAs both refused to allow their players to compete.

  8. Agree on Japan. Their performance yesterday is no surprise considering what they’ve done at two of the last three World Cups.

    I don’t know if I agree that Japan would win >50% of the games vs Spain but it IS a worthwhile argument and that in itself says a lot about Japan.

  9. I agree with other posters, both the Japan-Spain game and S. Korea/Mexico game were entertaining well played games. I was very impressed with both the Japanese and S. Korean teams. Their players were very technical, very fast, and could pass the ball. I think they are going to be major powers in the soccer world before too long.
    The Japan-Spain score was no fluke. Japan outplayed Spain. There are those that will say that Spain had 65% of the ball in the first half but Spain never threatened Japan seriously to score and Japan continuously caused problems for Spain. If they played 10 times I would predict Japan would probably win a majority of the games.
    The U.S. really needs to look at Japan to see how they are developing their players. Japan, like the U.S. had no soccer culture 30 years ago and has now developed a lot of highly skilled players. (Ironically, it was an American that helped Japan move down the development road).

  10. True and good point; the FIFA rankings do show their strength.

    Where I was going is that many US and especially Euro fans and definitely the soccer media only consider Brazil and Argentina as powers from S. America and ignore that during the last 4-6 years, Uruguay has equalled,if not surpassed, them both.

  11. Japan earned it, S. Korea more than earned a draw, Uruguay rolls on…the most under-the-radar force in world soccer.

    And England will be morose(r).

  12. +1

    That being said, he did a fantastic job reffing that game. That was a clear red, and he was fair and consistent throughout. Since we do not have a team at this competition, American fans can at least cheer on their ref :-p

  13. The ref in the Spain Japan match better watch himself. “My name is Inigo Martinez, you killed Spain’s chances, prepare to . . . ”

  14. The games I watched yesterday were very high paced and entertaining; it is always interesting to see which upstarts are going to make noise. Of course, I wish the United States was playing here, but there are some highly skilled players in this tournament, so it should be entertaining.


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