The men’s Olympic football tournament has reached a the crucial stage of the final group games, and Brazil are facing a potentially humiliating exit from a competition they were roundly expected to win. Just two teams have booked their place in the quarter finals so far – Portugal and Nigeria – while Fiji and Algeria are the only two to have already been eliminated with a game to spare.
The inclusion of Barcelona star Neymar in the Brazil squad was expected to help the host nation win their first ever Olympic title, but he has failed to make an impact so far. The Brazil side has been held to frustrating 0-0 draws with group minnows South Africa and Iraq, and on Wednesday night/Thursday morning they face top-of-the-group Denmark in a winner-takes-all clash.
Our tip for gold, Argentina, fell to a 2-0 defeat to Portugal first time out, but they got into their stride with a 2-1 victory over Algeria. They’re locked together on three points with Honduras, who they play on Wednesday afternoon, with the winner guaranteed to progress from group D alongside the Portuguese.
Another of the pre-tournament favourites, Germany, must beat Fiji by a heavy scoreline to have any chance of reaching the last eight, as they currently trail Mexico and South Korea by two points, with the latter pair set to play each other. Nigeria have beaten Japan and Sweden to qualify with six points, but Colombia could only manage a draw apiece against those two. The Colombians were also fancied to have an impact on the competition, but they must now beat Nigeria in the final fixture to ensure progress.
It all adds up to a quality day of tournament football, and there are a few bets that stand out at this stage.
Brazil v Denmark
Denmark are +250 with William Hill to secure at least a draw against Brazil, which will ensure their place in the knockout stage, and that looks a huge value price.
One would advise a degree of caution with this bet as Brazil could finally click and run away with it, but on value grounds it’s too tempting to pass up. The common theme among the interviews conducted by Brazil players is one of anxiety, and these young starlets appear to be feeling the pressure of playing in front of big crowds with huge expectations. The team, which includes Gabriel Jesus and Gabriel Barbosa along with Neymar, amassed 41 shots in its two matches against South Africa and Iraq, but only 13 were on target and not a single one found the back of the net.
Those two sides were rank outsiders prior to the competition and Brazil were expected to steamroller them, but it simply hasn’t happened. They now face a Danish side that is strong on discipline and organisation – indicative of the character of the footballing nation – and may struggle to break them down. The Danes are yet to concede in the tournament and sit top of group A with four points from a 0-0 draw with Iraq and a 1-0 win over South Africa. A point would be enough to see them through to the last eight, but they could be on their way home if they lose here and Iraq get the better of the South Africans. That will ensure that they take this test very seriously and a conservative mindset is more than probable. The longer they hold out the more anxiety will flood through the crowd and the Brazil players, and it could echo the disappointment of the 2014 World Cup.
The one saving grace for Brazil if this game ends in a stalemate, would be if the Iraq v South Africa game also ends in a draw, and they may limp through with three points. They, of course, will not want to rely on such a scenario, but whether they can raise their game against Denmark after those two disappointing draws remains to be seen. The value here definitely lies with Denmark, even if small stakes are advised.
Argentina v Honduras
Atletico Madrid’s Correa and new West Ham signing Calleri grabbed the all-important goals in the 2-1 win over Algeria, when both teams ended with ten men. That should have settled the nerves and they ought to be good enough to win here. Honduras beat Algeria by the odd goal in five in the first group match, before falling to a 2-1 defeat to Portugal. They have the better goal difference, so a draw would see them through behind the Portuguese, but that just increases confidence in the bet as Argentina have no choice but to go for the win.
Colombia v Nigeria
Finally, Colombia can book their place in the quarter finals at -161 with SkyBet by beating the already qualified Nigerians.
Rated as Africa’s strongest hope for Olympic glory, the Nigeria side haven’t let anyone down with a 5-4 defeat of Japan and a 1-0 win over Sweden. The Japanese and Swedes will battle it out to try and leapfrog Colombia in the group standings, but will be relying on Nigeria to get at least a draw. It would be no surprise to see the African side rest players, as is their right having already qualified, but even if they don’t, Colombia are a strong team in this context are were favourites for the group at the outset. They’ve been held to 2-2 draws in both previous group games, but in a similar vein to Argentina, they must win here. They’re worth backing to do just that.
Denmark or Draw
Thursday 11th August, 02:00 GMT
Argentina to beat Honduras
Wednesday 10th August, 17:00 GMT
Colombia to beat Nigeria
Wednesday 10th August, 23:00 GMT