Thu, Apr 26, 2012 - Page 20 News List

Britain, Senegal to kick off soccer

Reuters, LONDON

The Senegal team celebrate beating Oman on Tuesday in their men’s final Olympic playoff match in Coventry, England.

Photo: Reuters

Hosts Britain, taking part in their first Olympic soccer finals since 1960, will kick off their bid for gold against Senegal at Old Trafford, after being placed in a tough opening-round group in the draw at Wembley on Tuesday.

Senegal, who play Britain on July 26, reached their first Olympics after beating Oman 2-0 in a playoff on Monday, and the group is completed by Uruguay and the United Arab Emirates.

Like Britain, who won the soccer gold in 1908 and 1912, Uruguay also boast two Olympic titles from 1924 and 1928, and they are returning to the Games after a long absence, in their case 84 years since they won the tournament in Antwerp.

“I saw them play at the Under-20 World Cup and they were very impressive,” Britain coach Stuart Pearce told a news conference.

Pearce has a list of 80 probable players for his Olympic squad from England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, and can call on leading players from the Premier League.

Luis Suarez of Liverpool could be included in the Uruguay squad and Newcastle United strikers Demba Ba and Papiss Cisse would add considerable firepower to the Senegal team.

“It is such an honor to play against Britain in the opening match at Old Trafford,” Senegalese Football Association president Augustin Senghor said.

“I know we were the last to arrive in these finals after the playoff last night, but I hope that we will not be the first to leave. We will also field our strongest team and see if our players at Newcastle, like Demba Ba and Papiss Cisse, can be involved,” he added.

Seeded Brazil, five-times World Cup winners, but never Olympic champions, face Egypt, Belarus and New Zealand in Group C and will play their matches in Cardiff, Manchester and Newcastle.

Their former striker Ronaldo, who played in two World Cup finals and won an Olympic bronze in 1996 in Atlanta, said it was time Brazil finally claimed the Olympic gold.

Spain, who triumphed on home soil in Barcelona in 1992 and are the reigning world and European champions, will play Japan in Glasgow, Honduras in Newcastle and Morocco in Manchester.

Mexico, the other seeded nation, will face South Korea, Gabon and Switzerland.

The first event of the Olympics takes place at Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium on July 25, two days before the opening ceremony, when the British women’s soccer team play New Zealand in Group E. Cameroon and Brazil are in the same section.

Britain will also face Cameroon and there could be a big attendance for their final group match against Brazil at Wembley on July 31.

Women’s world champions Japan face Sweden, South Africa and Canada in Group F, while Olympic champions the US take on France, Colombia and their long-time political foes North Korea in Group G.

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