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Gunning for gold: London 2012’s likely contenders

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With gold medal hopefuls Spain having been surprisingly eliminated during the preliminary stage, London 2012 is wide open for a whole host of other nations as the tournament starts to take shape.

In terms of home interest, Team GB are going along rather nicely, with yesterday evening's 3-1 victory over the United Arab Emirates putting Stuart Pearce's side in the driving seat alongside Group A rivals Senegal for group winning qualification.

Following on from the opening 1-1 draw with the Africans, Team GB required victory against the UAE last night at Wembley and were involved in a tightly-contested fixture before Scott Sinclair's substitution reinvigorated the side as both he and Daniel Sturridge went on to claim a 3-1 victory from a nervy looking 1-1 score line.

Elsewhere, it is hard to look past tournament favourites Brazil who again registered impressively, striking three in a 3-1 victory over Belarus with Neymar yet again on the score sheet alongside Alexandre Pato of Milan and Chelsea new boy Oscar.

The Selecao won 3-2 in their opener against Egypt and have already qualified from Group C, progressing to the knockout phase of the competition where they will be favourites.

But who else can pose Brazil a threat going forward and indeed gun for gold themselves? Total Football's Taylor Williams assesses the likely contenders.


The Samurai Blue have impressed at London 2012 and have already tasted the winning feeling twice, after grinding out two 1-0 victories against Spain and Morocco.

Not tipped as a favourite pre-competition, Takashi Sekizuka's side have gone about their business both quietly and confidently and any side that can beat Spain deserves some notable recognition.

Japan will face off with Honduras in Coventry on Wednesday, August 4 in a group winning decider and the Central Americans will too fancy their chances, having just beat Spain themselves.

Watch out for German-based striker Yuki Otsu who has looked lively up top for Japan and the Borussia Monchengladbach striker will be vital in Japan's tournament hopes.


Much like Japan, nobody took any real notice of Senegal going into the games but the West African side have proved able competitors at London 2012. Comprising one of the tallest squads in the competition, Senegal don't lack physical presence and whilst some of their play is over the top and reckless, this stature has been the foundation on which the ball has been retained and flair players such as Sadio Mane and Pape Souare can go forward with their tricky dynamism.

Senegal's outstanding performer so far has been Maccabi Tel-Aviv's Moussa Konate who has already registered three goals at London 2012, netting two in Sunday afternoon's ten men victory over Uruguay.

Any side that has upset the hosts in Team GB and gone on to win a game with ten men deserves special praise as Joseph Koto's and Aliou Cisse's side has emerged as potential dark horses.

Team GB

Team GB tasted their first victory on Sunday evening as they overcame United Arab Emirates by three goals to one.

In the pre-competition friendly against Brazil, Stuart Pearce's outfit looked unfit and played like strangers but in comparison to Sunday evening's success, the improvement has been noticeable.

Playing much more like a team, with greater pace and intricacy, you can see the confidence is building game by game as the midfield linked up admirably with the forward ranks as Aaron Ramsey and Craig Bellamy had fantastic displays alongside the evergreen Ryan Giggs who opened the scoring on 16 minutes.

There are still question marks over the defence who were split on 60 minutes for Rashed Eisa's equaliser with James Tomkins and Steven Caulker still looking prone to defensive lapses in the heart of the back four.

Micah Richards looked much more dangerous as he was switched to right back and he is likely to retain this role going forward.

Team GB face a potentially tricky last game against Uruguay in Cardiff as they aim to win Group A but the South Americans need a win themselves to qualify so all is up for grabs.


With a new golden generation of Brazilian superstars coming through, it is no wonder to many that this side is doing well at London 2012.

Mano Menezes is using the games as a marker with the South American country hosting the upcoming 2014 FIFA World Cup.

Talents such as Neymar (pictured), Oscar, Lucas Moura and Hulk will most definitely be in that squad and the Selecao are looking ominously impressive in their pursuit of the gold medal.

They have struck six goals so far, with the much coveted Neymar already registering twice but the defence has been prone to conceding with Egypt almost managing an unlikely comeback from three down in the Group C opener in Cardiff.

Brazil will still fancy their chances at outscoring their opponents and with qualification already secured to the knockout phase, it will take something special as few are ready to look past the Selecao as the likely men's tournament winners.

South Korea

South Korea have always been a capable footballing nation and having become a familiar name at World Cup's, the Far East outfit have again impressed somewhat at London 2012.

Hong Myung-Bo's side remain undefeated at the games having racked up four points with an opening goalless draw against Mexico and a 2-1 victory against Switzerland on Sunday evening.

English-based Korean stars have managed to get on the score sheet with Arsenal outcast Park Chu-Young again proving his worth on the international stage and Cardiff City's recent acquisition Kim Bo-Kyung exciting his new band of supporters with his lively style.

South Korea are level with Mexico on four points at the top of Group B and both will qualify if they win their respective games on match day three.


Of course, the shock story of the preliminary round has been the exit of Spain who have yet to register on the score sheet at London 2012. They will play Morocco at Old Trafford on Wednesday, August 4 looking to retain some pride but elsewhere a number of other performances have been certainly underwhelming.

Many people's dark horses Uruguay have failed to live up to their billing with Edinson Cavani and Luis Suarez looking a shadow of their usually ruthless selves.

Lucky to come out with an opening victory against a refreshingly exciting UAE outfit on match day one, Oscar Tabarez's side seem to have been playing in a low gear and were found out on Sunday afternoon by Senegal.

Team GB will be hoping Uruguay have another off day in Cardiff on match day three as Stuart Pearce's side will be aiming for victory in order to stem the threat of Senegal in becoming Group A victors.

By Taylor Williams - Follow me on Twitter @Taylor_Will1989 - Visit my blog:

Follow Total Football on Twitter: @TotalFootball12

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