Olympics football 2012: The contenders

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Brazil star Neymar has promised to bring home a gold medal for his country at this year's Olympics - but a number of nations are working hard to spoil the samba summer.

Neymar has been described by Pele no less, as one of the world's top players, and his presence alone means Brazil will prove to be formidable opposition. Throw in Barca defender Dani Alves, Porto striker Hulk and AC Milan's Thiago Silva, and Neymar has the team to back up his promise. Alongside these European-based stars will be Neymar's fellow Santos wonderkid Ganso and Sao Paulo youngster and Chelsea transfer target Lucas.

But Brazil have never won Olympics gold, and haven't reached the final since 1988 in Seoul. Plenty of teams will be going all out to make sure it stays that way, but, apart from Brazil, who are the top contenders for Olympic gold in London?


Having seen off the back-to-back Olympic champions Argentina in the qualifying stage, World Cup semi-finalists Uruguay will be looking to continue their South American success story.

Key to their hopes is 20-year-old Diego Polenta. The Genoa defender has already made his Serie A debut and chipped in with a couple of crucial goals during qualifying.

After a fourth place finish at the World Cup 2010, a runners-up position at the recent under-17 World Cup and last year's Copa America title, Uruguayan football is enjoying something of a renaissance.

But the country hasn't appeared at a Olympics for 84 years, although their last showing in Paris in 1928 yielded a gold medal. The South Americans face Team GB in Group A, and Stuart Pearce's side will be in for a tough test. They may be outsiders, but like Luis Suarez and co in South Africa, they could still spring a surprise.



Spain's last Olympic squad in Sydney 2000 included Xavi and Carles Puyol, and the Barca pair came home with a silver medal. The Iberians last struck gold on home soil in 1992, and they have a squad packed with enough talent to repeat the feat in London.

Athletic Bilbao pair Ander Herrera and Iker Munian lead the charge, and Munian may yet appear instead for Spain at Euro 2012, but Olympics coach Luis Milla has real strength in depth to choose from.

Barca midfielder Sergio Busquets has made himself available for both tournaments, although it remains to be seen whether he can juggle both commitments. The reigning European under-21 champions will include the majority of the team that won that competition, including lethal finisher Adrian and Chelsea midfielder Oriol Romeu. With an abundance of La Liga talent to call on, Spain go into the tournament as favourites, alongside Brazil.



In qualifying Mexico were imperious, winning all five matches, scoring 26 goals and conceding just three. The Central Americans have one of the world's best youth teams, winning the FIFA under-17 World Cup last year and taking third-place the FIFA under-20 World Cup in Colombia.

In London, Mexico will have to do without Manchester United forward and star striker Javier Hernandez, so will instead rely upon the finishing of Guadalajara striker Erick Torres.

Under-23 coach Luis Fernando Tena has backed his players to show plenty of intensity this summer, and they should get out of their group relatively comfortably. Alongside them in Group B are Korea Republic, Switzerland and Gabon.


Great Britain

It's 52 years since a Great Britain football team contested an Olympic Games, and they haven't won gold since 1912. Now, with the tournament on home soil, Stuart Pearce will lead a side containing some of the Premier League's top young stars, and a few recognisable old heads.

David Beckham and Ryan Giggs have been tipped to take two of the three over-age spots, and both would certainly raise the profile and interest level in the two-week competition.

Britain's under-23 stars will most likely include a healthy contingent from each of the four home nations, and is likely to include Welsh winger Gareth Bale, Scottish striker Jordan Rhodes, Northern Irish midfielder Shane Ferguson and English star Jack Rodwell.

Great Britain will face Senegal, Uruguay and UAE in the group stages, and will be confident of qualifying. The knock-out rounds will be a trickier test, but Team GB should have a team more than capable of matching Spain and Brazil.

Even in the face of strong competition, Neymar remains confident of bringing home that first gold medal for Brazil.

Ronaldinho and Romario have tried before, and both returned without the precious metal, but with such a strong squad, and with Argentina out of the equation, Brazil will be the team to beat this summer.

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