GROUP C

Thursday, July 26

Belarus v New Zealand (19.45, Coventry)
Brazil v Egypt (19.45, Cardiff)

Sunday, July 29

Brazil v Belarus (12.00, Manchester)
Egypt v New Zealand (14.45, Manchester)

Wednesday, August 1

Brazil v New Zealand (14.30, Newcastle)
Egypt v Belarus (14.30, Glasgow)

Brazil

Brazil flagWith Olympic gold the only title they have yet to win, Brazil aim to complete the set in London. There have been several frustrated attempts over the last 25 years and the general assumption is that another one will cost coach Mano Menezes his job.

The tournament, therefore, is something of a referendum on Menezes and his two-year tenure, with its aim of renewing the side, in terms of both personnel and ideas, and its ultimate target of winning the next World Cup.

The importance of the Olympics is enhanced by the fact that, as 2014 hosts, Brazil have no World Cup qualifiers to help whip their side into shape. Not being involved in the qualification process has allowed them to concentrate on the Olympic tournament and play a number of warm-up friendlies.

Centre-back Thiago Silva seems sure to be one of the over-age players, with another alongside him – either David Luiz or Dede. The third could be goalkeeper Jefferson, striker Hulk or highly talented but dangerously explosive left-back Marcelo.

But the real focus will fall on a generation of promising home-based youngsters, spearheaded by Neymar. If all goes well for the 20-year-old, this side will serve as a sketch of the 2014 team – a real treat for British crowds.

The coach

Mano Menezes took over the national team soon after the last World Cup and is yet another Brazil boss from the more European south of the country. He made his name with Gremio and Corinthians, and frequently points out that the rhythm of the international game is more intense than that of Brazilian football.

Key players

Thiago Silva is quick and classy, one of the best centre-backs around. The Milan man will captain the side and organise the defence.

Sandro, battle-hardened by two seasons at Tottenham Hotspur, will be strong, mobile and reliable in central midfield. Oscar is a talented attacking midfielder who was the hero of last year’s World Youth Cup and looks to have pipped Paulo Henrique Ganso to the No10 shirt.

Santos wonderkid Neymar is one of the most eagerly anticipated performers at the tournament, but he has yet to turn on the magic against the compact defences of international football. Leandro Damiao is a target man. Strong and developing in technical terms, he has an interesting understanding with Internacional club-mate Oscar.

Squad:
Goalkeepers

1 GABRIEL
18 NETO

Defenders
2 RAFAEL
3 THIAGO SILVA
4 JUAN JESUS
6 MARCELO
8 ROMULO
13 BRUNO UVINI
14 DANILO
15 ALEX SANDRO

Midfielders
5 SANDRO
10 OSCAR
16 GANSO

Forwards
7 LUCAS
9 LEANDRO DAMIAO
11 NEYMAR
12 HULK
17 ALEXANDRE PATO

Coach
Mano MENEZES

By Tim Vickery

 

Belarus

Having drawn up a preliminary list of 35 players, coach Georgi Kondratiev shocked many in Belarus by leaving out one of the country’s best-known players of the past decade: Alexander Hleb.

“I will rely on the young players that gained the right to play at Olympics,” explained Kondratiev. “They are very well motivated and thirsty for success.”

Unfortunately recent performances have not been too positive and at the Toulon tournament in France Belarus drew 0-0 with Morocco, and lost 3-1 to France and 2-1 to Mexico.

“I’m not disappointed because we were not too bad,” continues Kondratiev. “We are concentrated to qualify from our group in London.”

The bulk of the team will be composed from the undisputed leaders of Belarus football, BATE.

The coach

Recently appointed coach of the senior side, Georgi Kondratiev led the under-21s to third place at the 2011 European Championship in Denmark. He made his name as a forward with Dinamo Minsk and won the USSR title in 1982. He was voted the best Belarusian coach in 2011.

Key players

Goalkeeper Alyaksandr Hutar is one of the best of his generation, while energetic midfielder Dzmitry Baha is a good passer and towering central defender Egor Filipenko has improved after failing to make an impact with Spartak Moscow.

Renan Bressan is of Brazilian origin and was top scorer in the  Belarus Supreme league in 2010. He could be joined by 28-year-old striker Vitali Rodionov, who has 28 senior caps and six goals.

Squad:
Goalkeepers

1 Aleksandr GUTOR
18 Andrei SHCHERBAKOV

Defenders
3 Igor KUZMENOK
4 Sergei POLITEVICH
6 Aleksei GAVRILOVICH
7 Maksim VITUS
12 Aleksei KOZLOV
17 Denis POLYAKOV

Midfielders
2 Stanislav DRAGUN
5 Dmitry BAGA
10 Renan BARDINI BRESSAN
13 Ilya ALEKSIEVICH
15 Artem SOLOVEI
16 Mikhail GORDEICHUK

Forwards
8 Sergei KORNILENKO
9 Vladimir KHVASHCHINSKY
11 Andrei VORONKOV
14 Egor ZUBOVICH

Coach
Georgy KONDRATYEV

By Oleg Zadernovsky  

 

Egypt

Having been the first Africans at the men’s football tournament, in Antwerp in 1920, Egypt have been frequent visitors to the Olympic Games, qualifying for the finals 13 times – although this summer will be their first appearance in 20 years. They have never won a medal but did finish fourth in Tokyo in 1964.

Qualification for London became a major priority after the senior side’s disastrous failure to reach the African Nations Cup finals earlier this year in order to defend their continental title.

Hany Ramzy, one of the greats of Egyptian football, took charge of that campaign and the side’s unexpected collapse in qualifying gave him a chance to use his Under-23 side in the last two group games late last year – academic outings that offered considerable experience for the youngsters.

At the African Under-23 Championship, Egypt won their group to qualify before losing to Morocco in the semi-finals, but beat Senegal in the bronze-medal match to make sure of their progress to the Olympic finals.

The coach

As a centre-back for the national team, Hany Ramzy played at the 1990 World Cup and enjoyed a long career in the Bundesliga before returning home to embark on a coaching career.

Key players

Twenty-year-old striker Mohamed Salah scored the winner in June’s World Cup qualifier against Guinea and has just joined Swiss club Basle from Arab Contractors. His former team-mate Bassem Ali has also been capped at senior level but could be included.

Zamalek keeper Ahmed El Shennawey is another with international caps, as is full-back Ahmed Hegazy who joined Fiorentina from Ismaili in January.

Squad:
Goalkeepers

1 Ahmed ELSHENAWI
18 Mohamed BASSAM

Defenders
2 Mahmoud ALAA ELDIN
3 ALY FATHY
4 OMAR GABER
6 Ahmed HEGAZI
7 AHMED FATHI
12 Eslam RAMADAN
15 Saadeldin SAAD

Midfielders
8 Shehab AHMED
13 SALEH GOMAA
14 HOSSAM HASSAN
17 Mohamed EL NENY

Forwards
5 Mohamed ABOUTRIKA
9 Marwan MOHSEN
10 EMAD METEAB
11 MOHAMED SALAH
16 Ahmed MAGDY

Coach
Hany RAMZY

By Mark Gleeson

 

New Zealand

The Kiwis’ task is a simple one: to right the ship. Up until June, New Zealand football had every reason to feel good about itself following several sterling performances at FIFA tournaments – then came a humbling OFC Nations Cup defeat by minnows New Caledonia.

The quaintly named “Oly Whites” now urgently need solid results in England to regain credibility for the game back home.

On paper, they possess a side capable of achieving them, although Winston Reid’s unavailability is a significant handicap. Had the West Ham United defender been present, New Zealand could have fielded pretty much a preferred senior team line-up, with the Reid, Tommy Smith and Ryan Nelsen back-three combination from the 2010 World Cup intact.

Neither Nelsen nor Reid appeared when Honduras were beaten 1-0 in a recent friendly in Dallas, but 10 other Olympians did feature, so the Egyptian and Belarusian games can be contemplated with some optimism.

Brazil, of course, are entirely different. The South Americans inflicted a 5-0 drubbing at the Beijing Olympics and a more respectable scoreline at Newcastle United’s St James’ Park will be among New Zealand’s prime goals.

The extent of their realistic aspirations is qualification for the quarter-finals. And that would certainly constitute the desired
two steps forward.

The coach

Ex-Wolverhampton Wanderers utility man Neil Emblen has won two domestic league titles during his four-year coaching career.

Key players

The defence’s linchpin, Ryan Nelsen was an inspirational captain in South Africa 2010 and it is essential that he repeats the feat. Meanwhile, shaky performances at the OFC Nations Cup have raised questions about the capabilities of first-choice keeper Jake Gleeson.

Of Chilean extraction, Marco Rojas is the most exciting young talent produced by Kiwi football in three decades. Shane Smeltz, a striker whose quality has been established at club and senior international levels, is the most likely source of goals.

Squad:
Goalkeepers

1 Jake GLEESON
18 Michael O KEEFFE

Defenders
3 Ian HOGG
4 Tim MYERS
5 Tommy SMITH
6 Ryan NELSEN
12 Adam THOMAS
14 James MUSA

Midfielders
2 Tim PAYNE
7 Kosta BARBAROUSES
8 Michael McGLINCHEY
13 Alex FENERIDIS
15 Cameron HOWIESON
17 Adam MCGEORGE

Forwards
9 Shane SMELTZ
10 Chris WOOD
11 Marco ROJAS
16 Dakota LUCAS

Coach
Neil EMBLEN

By Paul Moon