|Football Bettor's Survey|
The Official Beijing 2008 Football
The football tournament at the Beijing Olympics has reached the semi-final stage and you’ll be forgiven if your focus is drawn to just one of the semi-finals.
Belgium deserve a lot of credit for defeating Italy in the quarters, even more so as they played the majority of the match with 10 men. A thrilling 3-2 victory was just reward for a performance full of grit and determination and a strong Italian side could have no complaints about their elimination from the event.
Belgium versus Nigeria Unnoticed
Belgium will face off against Nigeria, another team who have surprised and excelled throughout the campaign. A 2-0 victory over the Ivory Coast was enough to book the junior version of The Super Eagles (The Eaglets is one name they are being called by) and both sides will fancy their chances of clinching the victory that will see them in the final.
Football may not be the most glamorous Olympic event but the chance of having a Gold or Silver medal from the Olympic Games is a truly wonderful achievement and every player on the park will be fully focused on the task that lies ahead of them.
Both teams may have overcome the odds to get where they are now but no one can deny the fact that they are there on merit.
That said, do not expect to read an awful lot more about their match and that is because the other game features a clash of two football giants. No matter the competition, if you mention football, Brazil and Argentina in the same sentence people will get excited.
Barca Boy versus ex-Barca Boy
And we may as well get the big talking point over and done with, all the focus will be on the players who were club team-mates until a few weeks ago.
Lionel Messi and Ronaldinho have led by example as the tournament progressed and their inclusion has helped raise the profile of Olympic football immensely. They may not both be returning to Barcelona after the tournament concludes with Ronaldinho now calling Milan home but no doubt both players will be keen to get one over their rival.
90 Minutes Not Enough
Both quarter finals involving the South American giants required extra time to provide a winner but at least this prevents either side from having a fitness advantage going into the semi final match.
Lionel Messi was once again on the score sheet as he opened the scoring for Argentina but an equaliser from Otman Bakkal to level the game at 1-1. Bakkal is currently playing with PSV Eindhoven and he was responsible for keeping Holland in the competition with his 36th minute equalizer. Angel Di Maria notched the winner for Argentina at the end of the first period of extra time in a match that was extremely balanced. There is no doubt that Argentina have an extremely strong squad competing for the Olympic football competition.
Not only is Lionel Messi present, they can also call on the services of Juan Riquelme and Javier Mascherano. These are players widely respected the world over for their talent and influence on the game and there is a strong mix of experience and youthful exuberance in the Argentinean squad.
Yellow peril for Brazil and Cameroon
The other quarter final ended goalless at the end of the regulation 90 minutes but two goals in the first period of extra time was enough for Brazil to squeeze past Cameroon. It was a match of high tension and temper with a total of 12 cautions being handed out in total. With this in mind, it is perhaps surprising that there was only one red card issued but it fell to Cameroon’s Albert Baning in the 51st minute. This provided the African nation with a mountain to climb but they managed to hold out until full time.
No doubt there would be some players and officials praying for penalty kicks and the opportunity to knock out their more illustrious rivals but the class and extra man eventually showed for Brazil. It had to be said that Ronaldinho had a starring role in the match and his influence has definitely grown as the tournament has progressed.
Similar to the Argentina squad, Brazil have called on a number of players who will be familiar to many readers. In addition to Ronaldinho, Alex Silva, Anderson, Diego, Manchester City’s new singing Jo and Pato have all been included in the squad for the event. Pato was one of the very shining lights from the 2007/08 campaign for AC Milan and he is tipped to be a big player in the future.
Olympic Glory is Important to the South Americans
It is hard to say why the South American nations place such importance on the Olympic football tournament but it is clear that both Brazil and Argentina are trying hard to clinch gold at this summer’s event. A lot of the focus on the Olympics may be due to the role it played before the World Cup was introduced. South American rivals Uruguay were triumphant in the 1924 and 1928 Olympic Games and this was a key reason in the nation being offered the opportunity to host the first ever World Cup. Of course, Uruguay then went on to win the World Cup as well, marking them out as the premier international side of the era.
This may influence the special appeal that South American nations place on Olympic glory but Brazil have yet to win the event. They may be the most successful nation with regards to the World Cup but they have never experienced winning the Olympic event. There is a lot of pressure being applied to current coach Dunga because his style of play is generally at odds with the romantic notion of Brazilian football but a win in Beijing would offer the ex-midfielder a degree of breathing space.
There has been talk that Dunga may be relieved of his duties if Brazil do not return from Beijing with their heads held high and some form of medal so this semi-final is of massive importance to the nation.
That said, the squad of Argentina players who take the field on Tuesday will also have their own list of motivations to succeed and the tie promises to be an intriguing match.
The team who triumphs may believe they have won the final before the final but with either Belgium or Nigeria lying in wait for the victors; there is still a lot of football to be played at the 2008 Olympic Games.
for The Silver Circle at www.footballtip.co.uk
I've been a member since July 2003, maybe one of the first to join the Silver Circle. 2004 was a good year but I really enjoyed the long run we had in, I think, July 2005. It was exhilarating! 2006-2007 was not as exciting although still quite profitable and so far 2007-2008 looks quite good. I'm wondering if we're going to hit a long one again soon. Anyway, it's been a pleasure as always with your service, Greg. Armstrong and you are one of the few people I trust on the internet. You have made my retirement so much more fun and financially happy!
Best Wishes, Trent Wrayford, Sidney