The first round of men’s football matches at the London 2012 Olympic Games kicked off yesterday with all sixteen teams playing their opening games across the United Kingdom.
Here is a comprehensive review of all the action in the UK.
Great Britain 1-1 Senegal
Scorers: Craig Bellamy 20′ (1-0), Papé Konaté 82′ (1-1)
Inside a packed Old Trafford, Team GB drew their opener 1-1 against a spirited Senegal side. Britain opened the scoring in the 20th minute when Ryan Giggs‘ cross from the from the right was met by Tottenham defender Steven Caulker, who knocked it down into the path of Craig Bellamy who finished with his first touch.
Sadio Mané had the opportunity to equalise for Senegal, but his chip was horribly wide, before Jack Butland was required to stoop low to save Ibrahima Ba’s shot.
Despite Team GB being in front, it was Senegal who were creating all the chances. Zargo Touré’s second-half effort was blasted over before Butland was required to make another quality save from Saliou Cissé.
The Brits had cause for concern when Joe Allen was scythed into by Cissé, and he had to be replaced.
Bellamy was also at the receiving end of a rash Sénégalais challenge just outside the penalty area, but he was able to carry on before being eventually replaced.
Senegal’s opportunity to equalise arrived eight minutes from time to deny Team GB a famous victory, when he finished with an exquisite dinked effort over the onrushing Butland.
The Host Nation were unlucky not to get away with a win, Marvin Sordell’s stoppage time effort hitting the woodwork.
United Arab Emirates 1-2 Uruguay
Scorers: Matar 23′ (1-0); Ramirez 42′ (1-1), Lodeiro 56′ (1-2)
Uruguay posted the tournament’s first come-from behind win when they beat UAE 2-1 in Manchester.
UAE skipper Ismail Matar opened the scoring midway through the first half, but Uruguay equalised three minutes before half time. Luis Suarez was fouled 20 yards from goal and Bologna midfielder Gaston Ramirez drew his side level with a curling free kick.
Suarez was also involved in his country’s second goal. The Liverpool striker played Nicolas Lodeiro’s pass back to him and the former Ajax man scored what turned out to be the winner.
Uruguay’s win means they now top Group A, ahead of Team GB and Senegal.
The Arab side was commended for observing their Ramadan fast during the game, turning down the water and other refreshments provided at half-time and after ninety minutes.
Mexico 0-0 Korea
Mexico’s fixture against the Koreans finished goalless, but the North American side can consider themselves unlucky to not snatch a win from this game.
At the Sports-Direct Arena in Newcastle, the Koreans enjoyed the better chances, especially in the first half. Nam Tae-Hee fired over after 19 minutes and Park Jong-Woo long-range half-volley missed the target soon after.
Mexico’s Marco Fabián could’ve given his side the lead in the 69th minute, but he wasted a glorious opportunity to open the scoring.
However, in second-half stoppage time, Tottenham Hotspur attacked Giovani dos Santos put Raul Jimenez clean through, but his effort on goal thudded the outside of the crossbar.
Gabon 1-1 Switzerland
Scorers: Mehmedi 5′pen (0-1); Aubameyang 45′ (1-1)
Group B’s other fixture also ended in a draw as honours were shared between Gabon and Switzerland.
Switzerland began the game brightly as an attack on the left saw several Swiss players bomb forward. Innocent Emeghara was clumsily fouled in the box as he attempted to receive the resultant pass from the wing, and Admir Mehmedi stepped to successfully convert Switzerland’s spot kick.
Despite their shaky start, Gabon improved, and the CAF U-23 champions were level on the stroke of half-time when Alexander N’Doumbou’s deflected cross was calmly slotted home by Pierre Emerick Aubameyang to draw Gabon level.
The first half of the match was peppered with scoring opportunities that both sides failed to capitalise on.
The second half began were the first left off, as both sides made changes to alter the course of the game to their advantage. But in the 78th minute, Oliver Buff was sent off for a second bookable offence.
Switzerland immediately made a defensive substitution in an attempt to batten down the hatches as Gabon introduced another striker on the pitch.
But the Europeans were able to cling on for a point despite playing the last 12 minutes of the game with ten men.
Belarus 1-0 New Zealand
Scorers: Dmitry Baga 45′ (1-0)
Belarus grabbed their first victory in a competitive game since independence when they beat New Zealand 1-0.
The only goal of the game came when Dmitry Baga scored just before half-time, following a lapse in concentration by New Zealander Michael O’Keefe.
The Kiwi keeper’s mistake meant that Baga could not home from a corner aimed at the back post. Despite all of New Zealand’s passing play, their efforts turned out to be fruitless as the Belarussians looked the more threatening.
The former Soviet nation may not have dominated possession, but they always posed a threat from set-plays.
Brazil 3-2 Egypt
Scorers: Rafael 16′ (1-0), Damião (2-0), Neymar 30′ (3-0); Aboutrika 52′ (3-1) Salah 76′(3-2)
New Chelsea signing Oscar showed his new side exactly what he is capable of when he set up Manchester United fullback Rafael da Silva and Spurs target Leandro Damião against Egypt at Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium.
In front of a crowd of 26,812, star striker Neymar tripled his side’s lead to give the match a commanding 3-0 scoreline in favour of the Brazilians.
But the Selecão came into the second with less intensity than the first, and they were made to pay as Egypt pulled back two goals to give the Africans a chance at salvaging something from the game.
Mohamed Aboutrika and Mohamad Salah scored in the second half to put the Egyptians within touching distance of sharing the spoils, but the North African side ran out of steam in the end.
The Egyptian team was praised for showing great character for observing their Ramadan fast even during the game, when they declined the water and energy drinks that were offered to them at half-time and at the end of the game.
Honduras 2-2 Morocco
Scorers: Barrada 39′ (1-0), Labyad 67′ (2-1); Bengston 56′ (1-1) and 65′pen (2-2)
The opening game of the Men’s Football Tournament at London 2012 saw Honduras fail to beat Morocco.
The African side had a better first half than their central American opponents and went ahead seven minutes before the break via an emphatically struck volley from Abdel Barrada.
But Honduras hit the ground running in the second half and Maynor Figueroa’s pass was slotted home from close range by Jerry Bengston.
Bengston then converted a penalty to give his side the lead in the 65th minute, but that would last only 2 minutes as Zakaria Labyad’s chip over Honduran keeper Jose Mendoza.
But in the 71st minute, Zakarya Bergdich was sent off for lashing out at Mario Martinez. Despite the reduction to ten men, Honduras could not find a way past their opponents and the match ended in a draw.
Spain 0-1 Japan
Scorers: Otsu 34′ (0-1)
The upset of the day was without doubt Japan’s win over Spain at Hampden Park in Glasgow, Scotland, where Yuki Otsu’s goal in the first half was enough for the Asian side to claim a famous victory over their highly fancied European opponents.
Spain’s side consisted of three players who were part of the victorious Euro 2012 campaign, with Jordi Alba, Javier Martinez and Juan Mata all starting for the Reds, who began the game with their crisp tiki-taka game but found the Japanese pressing them on all fronts.
Chelsea winger Mata mustered the only shot of the first half for Spain, when he tested Shuichi Gonda with a long-ranged drive, but it was an isolated effort for a team that were uncharacteristically struggling to create chances. In contrast, the Japanese created several chances throughout the game.
Yuki Otsu outmuscled Martin Montoya to poke home Takahiro Ohgihara’s corner, and the Asian side should have doubled their lead soon afterwards when Hiroshi Kiyotake pounced on Alvaro Dominguez’s sloppy back pass, but saw his shot go wide after he’d rounded Manchester United keeper David de Gea.
Spain suffered a further setback when Inigo Martinez was sent off for bringing Kensuke Nagai just outside the penalty area, with five minutes remaining in the first half.
Nagai, Kiyotake, Hotaru Kamaguchi and Keigo Higashi all tested de Gea – sometimes in one on one’s – in the second half, but the Spaniard pulled off several stunning saves to spare his side the blushes.
Spain could only conjure up a solitary effort in the second half, but Jordi Alba’s attempt was easily gathered by Gonda.