Egypt – 1
New Zealand – 1 &
Brazil – 3
Belarus – 1
The Olympic Games Football, Group C Matches – 29th July 2012
So after 7 years, the Olympic Games are finally here.
If you were to believe the press coverage leading up to the XXX Olympiad (I like calling it that), you’d know that there were a bunch of monumental screw-ups, and questions were being asked about the games. One of them were the ticketing – how many tickets would end up in the hands of fans, and how many would go to people genuinely interested in it?
The first round of tickets offered were offered via a ballot, and for a long time, the football tickets – by far the easiest tickets to get – were the only tickets I could get my hands on. I later manage to get Handball tickets (which follows in a couple of weeks on this blog), at the second round, first-come-first-serve of tickets being sold.
Anyway, first up was football, and – thankfully – no Team GB. Instead I get two nations with a remarkable football pedigree, and two other emerging nations in games. I left my house at the obscene time of 9:30am on a Sunday to head to Old Trafford for the first time. The home of Manchester United is the closest ground to my house, and yet, before today, I’ve never been. Been to the second closest football ground to my front door (Brantingham Road, the home of Maine Road, that ironically began as a Manchester City fan team), but not the first.
This appeared outside my home recently.....
As I headed to the Metrolink stop (which I board every day to go to work), I got greeted by one of the many volunteers helping at the games. I kind of imagine that they have to undergo a Clockwork Orange esque scene of being forced to watch puppies, kittens and rainbows, they are so incredibly cheerful! I got helpfully pointed towards Old Trafford, and – after a rather efficient bag search – I was in the ground.
They say arrive two hours before the games, the entire process meant I was in the ground an hour and 45 before kick off, but absolutely no complaints about the seats! Third row, and just about under the covers. It resulted in a time-killing phone call to the parents to describe where I was, and to look out for me. Nothing like crippling the mother and father’s day by forcing them to watch football, is it?
Egypt probably not taking the warmup as seriously as they should
After being entertained by DJ Spoony, who was providing warm up (which lead to a few moments of resounding boos, most notably when he asked if there were any Manchester United fans in attendance), I headed off for a sausage roll. I kind of wish I didn’t as it was the single most revolting thing I’ve ever eaten. Rubbery and borderline sickly, I expected better from the 19 time Premier League Champions. The game began to fill up, though oddly for the first game there were empty seats next to me. Those that were there (which was announced as a shade over 50,000) were mainly Egyptian fans, and come midday, the match kicked off.
Empty seats. Brazillian, not corporates, incidentally.
Egypt straight away seemed like the much stronger side, and seemed a lot more value than their previous game (a 3-0 defeat to Brazil), so it was surprising when the All Whites took the lead, a corner taken by Michael McGlinchey was flicked on by Tommy Smith, which lead to Chris Wood of West Brom’s fame to bundle into the net. In literally the first attack for New Zealand, they were 1-0 up.
The lead didn’t last for too long, however, as Mohamed Salah equalised just on the half hour mark burying a cross beneath the New Zealand keeper, who played well, and did get his hand to the ball. Come half time, the score was 1-1.
Egypt look good for the win but struggled the second half.
The second half was a lively affair, with Egypt having most of the ball, but New Zealand defending resolutely. Very few clear cut chances were present until injury time, which had the most remarkable passage of play I’ve seen at a football match.
Emad Moteb raced onto a ball in the box, and dodging and weaving between players, he had the goal at his mercy. Instead of putting the game beyond doubt, he blasted it over. Egypt, thinking that was it, fell asleep only for New Zealand to counter attack. A chance went straight at the keeper, who launched a final counter attack. Although it lead to a decent chance, it was easily save. Mark Clattenburg brought the game to an end with the honours even, with the crowd nicely warmed up for the real stars – Brazil.
The next World Cup Winners (and West Ham's James Tomkins)?
An hour break was between the games, but nevertheless much of that hour was spent watching the fascinating Brazil training sesson. As somebody who has taken photos at football matches you can kind of predict where the ball will go. Not with Brazil, some of the tricks and their ball control was superb. The atmosphere picked up as well, as the sea of red that was a mixture of Egypt fans and empty seats changed to a sea of yellow for Brazil.
As the teams were announced, the first cock-up of the day occurred. One of Brazil’s substitutes was announced as the rather unBrazilian James Tomkins. James Tomkins is one of Team GB’s footballers, so yes, massive screw up.
Belarus though had much cause to celebrate. Qualification for the first time in an Olympic games, this team – if a little older – could become a challenger to the European elite. You could see it on the emotion of the players playing before kick off, which happened soon after 3.
Brazil seemed content to pass the ball in front of Belarus, who went through the first three minutes without touching the ball once. It was a surprise of Eric The Eel proportions when Renan Bardini Bressan (a favourite on Football Manager) scored from Belarus’ first attack to put the Eastern Europeans 1-0 up after 7 minutes. The lead lasted until the quarter of the hour mark, when the latest Brazilian hero Neymar sent a glorious cross to the far post for Pato to head in. No more goals occurred in the first half, despite much Brazilian pressure, and the game was 1-1 at half time.
Oscar had a very strong second half.
The second half kicked off, and Neymar began to run the show. After a couple of mazy dribbles past a few Belerussian players, he was fortunate to get a free kick 35 yards out when it appeared he (accidentally) kicked one of the Eastern European centre backs in the back of the head. There was no mistake with the free kick, leaving the keeper well beaten with the finish, in what was the goal of the game.
PICK THAT ONE OUT!!!
Although it didn’t kill the game off, it was still all Brazilian pressure, and the game was finally over when Neymar took the ball past two players, backheeled it to Chelsea new boy Oscar, who rifled the ball into the back of the net. Final score, Brazil 3, a spirited Belerus 1.
I left the games beaming from ear to ear. Sod the ticket fiasco, sponsorship and G4S. Today was watching the greatest sport on Earth played at the greatest event on Earth, with possibly one of the greatest teams on Earth. Nothing can put me off, not least the three empty seats beside me.
Yes, those empty seats? Well it may have played into my hands. After checking the London 2012 website, tickets for a Thursday early morning session of Canoe Sprint have come available. It’ll be an early morning trek to Buckinghamshire, but for a once in a lifetime experience, it’ll be worth it.
A once in a lifetime experience, which I’m experiencing three times in two weeks now.