Japan's Hiroki Sakai, Kensuke Nagai and Yuki Otsu celebrate after winning the match in their men's Group D football match against Morocco at the London 2012 Olympic Games at St James' Park in Newcastle, northern England July 29, 2012. (Photo : REUTERS/Nigel Roddis)
The quarter finals of the men's soccer tournament at the Olympics get started on Saturday with a major showdown between Egypt and Japan. Which side has the edge in this contest?
Kick-off Date & Time:
Saturday, August 4, 2012
12:00 p.m. London Time
7:00 a.m. EDT
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The Japanese have quietly turned into contenders after a very strong performance over Spain and Morocco. They dominated the pre-tournament favorite Spaniards who at the time were still viewed as contenders for the gold. Japan however really showed their true colors in a tilt which favored the Japanese for its duration. Had Spanish keeper David De Gea not been as prolific, the match may have ended 4-0 rather than 1-0. Against Morocco, the Samurais were a bit more subdued but still tenacious enough to finish with a 1-0 win.
Against Honduras they ended in a 0-0 draw, though it was clear that both teams were content to sit back and let the clock play out.
Japan is known for a potent offense but their defense has been their asset in this tournament. They are one of two teams that have yet to concede a goal and have done so with disciplined play and tight coverage. They out chanced opponents in two of three matches and dominated possession throughout.
Keep Player: Yuki Otsu. He scored Japan's lone goal against Spain and has created chances, but the Japan's star striker has been quiet of late. He will be relied upon to cause havoc in the Egyptian zone and will need to be effective if this team is to move on.
After the first half of their match against Brazil, Egypt looked like they would underachieve in the tournament. But the ensuing 45 minutes only showed a glimpse of the tenacity that this squad could offer. In their ensuing match against New Zealand, the Pharoahs were unlucky to draw. But against Belarus, they finally broke out with three goals and a lopsided win. During the course of the three matches Egypt proved to be one of the most exciting teams in the tournament.
Now they face off against a Japanese squad that has not allowed a goal and will look to deter Egypt's potent offense. Both squads have been the yin to the other's yang with Japan strong on defense and Egypt powerful offensively.
Key Player: Mohamed Aboutrika. They spotlight has been on him for the majority of the tournament and he has responded brilliantly with two goals and two assists. Mohamed Salah has been tremendous as well with three goals, but the play goes through Aboutrika and will need to continue to do so if Egypt is to win this match.
Japan Wins If...
Thye control possession and attack aggressively. That way they keep Egypt on the defensive (where they are weakest) and in the process shut down their potent offense. Japan is more capable than Egypt at winning a battle of mental attrition than they are at winning a free flowing game back and forth match.
Egypt Wins If...
They control the ball. Japan's offense has been strong but not as dominant as Egypt who knows how to exploit openings in the rear of opponents. However, if the Japanese control the sphere, Aboutrika and Salah, the two great Egyptian weapons will be rendered useless and Japan will easily win a mental battle.
Prediction: Japan continues to make their case for a gold medal with a 2-1 win over Egypt. Aboutrika and Salah convert one goal, but Japan possesses the sphere and momentum throughout the match.