Three thoughts ahead of Day 1 of the Olympic men's soccer tourney
Great Britain will kick off the men's soccer tournament Thursday at Old Trafford
Mexico will need Giovani Dos Santos at his best against inspired South Korea
The best Olympic teams on paper (Brazil and Spain) each have tough Day 1 tests
GLASGOW, Scotland -- Three thoughts ahead of the opening day of men's Olympic soccer on Thursday:
Can Great Britain kick things off on the right foot? I'll be in Manchester, where United star Ryan Giggs will be playing at the famed Old Trafford stadium in his first international tournament as the hosts meet Senegal (3 p.m. ET, NBCSN). The Brits could use a lift after looking disjointed in a 2-0 friendly loss to Brazil last week, and the talk here seems to be more about who isn't on the team, from David Beckham (who wanted to be but wasn't picked) to Gareth Bale (who cited injury in begging off but played for Spurs in L.A. on Tuesday). But there are some promising players on board, including Chelsea's Daniel Sturridge, Liverpool's Craig Bellamy and Man City's Micah Richards. A good win would turn the cranky public's frowns upside-down.
Can Giovani Dos Santos stand out in Britain? The most popular national soccer team in the United States (that would be Mexico) has a tough opener against South Korea (9:30 a.m. ET, NBCSN,/Telemundo), and the player everyone will be watching is Dos Santos, the electric forward who has stood out more for Mexico than for Tottenham Hotspur. Dos Santos is the only foreign-based player on Mexico's team, but that doesn't mean El Tri is lacking talent. Marco Fabián, Oribe Peralta and Carlos Salcido add some star power to a team that has a chance to make a deep run in pursuit of a medal. South Korea, meanwhile, counters with another seldom-used English-based player, Arsenal's Park Chu-Young, but he's supported by a capable group that is the fruit of South Korea's impressive youth development program.
Will the favorites hold serve? The best Olympic teams on paper are easily Brazil (with Neymar, Thiago Silva, Hulk, Pato, Sandro, etc.) and Spain (with Juan Mata, Jordi Alba, David De Gea, Javi Martínez, Tello, Iker Muniain, etc.), and both could face tricky tests on Matchday 1. Brazil meets Egypt (2:45 p.m. ET, MSNBC), which boasts national hero Mohamed Aboutrika, while Spain takes on Japan, the Asian senior champion (9:45 a.m. ET, MSNBC). Keep in mind, NBC's various channels are showing lots of soccer (the master schedule is here), and every Olympic event, including all soccer games, are being streamed live online. (You can authenticate here.) Enjoy the games!