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Team GB's possible route to the final

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With the Olympics just 17 days away, Team GB are one of 16 nations to compete in the football competition. However, with the limelight firmly on Stuart Pearce’s men, there has been little media presence on the teams that Team GB could face.

As the host nation and fourth favourite team to claim the coveted gold medal, Team GB are expected to perform admirably. By this reckoning, a semi-final appearance is but the lowest target for the country’s young lions.

If they perform well enough, their route to the final will still be no easy feat – here’s who could pose the biggest threats at London 2012.

Group stage: Uruguay fight for top status

Team GB are up against Senegal, United Arab Emirates and Uruguay in Group A, with the latter proving the biggest threat to claiming top spot.

Uruguay have made their intentions clear, with first place in the group a priority.

Their 18-man squad was revealed yesterday, with Liverpool duo Luis Suarez and Sebastian Coates amongst them.

Suarez (pictured) has been selected as one of three over-aged players alongside Napoli striker Edinson Cavani and Palermo midfielder Egidio Arevalo Rios.

A rock in the defensive midfield position, Arevalo Rios has proved vital in Uruguay’s success, helping the team lift their 15th Copa America last year.

Suarez finished second in the scoring charts and whilst Cavani struggled to find the net, the scoring form of the Uruguayan strikers has seen them rack up 50 goals last season in a combined 86 matches.

It will be no surprise if this success is replicated during the Games.

Finishing fourth at the 2010 World Cup, Uruguay are aiming for their third Olympic title and could be strong contenders in both the group and knockout stages.

Quarter-finals: Mexico or Switzerland could await

If qualification from Group A is secured, Team GB will most probably face Mexico or Switzerland from Group B, depending on their finishing position.

Both hold strong chances of progressing to this stage but critics fear their routes could be short-lived, with defeat against either Team GB or Uruguay in the quarters posed as a likely outcome.

The big news is the exclusion of Manchester United and Mexico poacher Javier Hernandez, who has been sidelined from the Mexican Olympic squad at the discretion of club manager Sir Alex Ferguson.

With the Premier League season beginning on August 18, Ferguson does not want to chance his fitness going into the opening weekend of fixtures.

Leading the line instead will be Oribe Peralta, who has already scored six goals in five Olympic qualifying games and is a proud gold medal winner and top goal scorer of the 2011 Pan American Games.

Captained by veteran goalkeeper Jose de Jesus Corona, a controlled mix of defensive prowess and attacking vitality could see Mexico cause problems should Team GB be paired against them.

First-time qualifiers since 1928, Switzerland have performed above expectations recently.

Qualification from the group stage shouldn’t be beyond them, whilst Lorient striker Innocent Emeghara could prove a handful for Britain’s defence, if the key man continues his hot vain of club scoring form.

Semi-finals and beyond

Whittling the competition down to four teams is always a hard and highly complex task, yet if predictions prove correct, then Team GB will showdown against one of the big two – Brazil or Spain – unless an upset or rematch against Uruguay is on the cards.

Brazil’s roll of honour is the best in the world, but the one title to elude them is Olympic gold.

Rich with flair and an attacking instinct unrivalled by most, Brazil are firm favourites for the Olympic title this summer, hoping to build on their silver medal obtained during the 2008 Games in Beijing.

A tremendous amount of publicity has been given to Santos magician Neymar, yet London 2012 will be the first time he will perform on a mass global scale.  

The trickster could easily walk away with the top billing if Brazil, also including Hulk and Alexandre Pato in the line-up, fulfil their promise as top Olympic nation.

National head coach Mano Menezes will guide the team and anything less than gold will hurt Brazil.

Spain, interestingly, failed to qualify for the 2008 Olympics. They did, however, triumph at Euro 2008 before going on to win the 2010 World Cup and Euro 2012.  The latter after conceding just one goal throughout the whole tournament.

The last time the national team lost in a competitive game was against France during the 2006 World Cup and they have since gone six years without defeat in a major tournament, something they will keenly wish to uphold.

Their Olympic team comprises huge promise including David de Gea, Cesar Azpilicueta, Adrian and Athletic Bilbao man Ander Herrera. They will be confident of mounting a challenge for Olympic gold.

By James Hartnett – Follow me on Twitter @JamesHartnett_

Follow Total Football on Twitter: @TotalFootball12

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