July 24th, 2012
04:56 PM ET

Brazil vs. Spain – who will win Olympic gold?

Star striker Neymar scored in Brazil's Olympic warmup win over London 2012 hosts Great Britain. (Getty Images)
Star striker Neymar scored in Brazil's Olympic warmup win over London 2012 hosts Great Britain. (Getty Images)

It’s gold or bust. There are two teams who enter the men’s Olympic football tournament with just one goal – finishing at the top of the podium.

For different reasons, Brazil and Spain are taking these Games in London – which feature under-23 players plus three overage members per squad – as seriously as if it was a World Cup or continental championship, and I hope they get to meet in the final.

For the "Selecao" this competition is about much more than just pride or bragging rights, it’s about history. Brazil may have won the World Cup a record five times and the Copa America on eight occasions, but they have never got their hands on Olympic gold. It is something that not only the country's fans and officials are hoping for, but the players themselves have been saying it would be a dream come true.

As far as I am concerned, the Brazilians have the strongest squad in the competition. Neymar is easily the best player who will kick a ball in the UK over the next three weeks and this could be the tournament where he truly arrives on the global stage. Then there is Thiago Silva, Alexandre Pato, Hulk, Ganso, Marcelo – all full internationals who play for top clubs.

On paper, the Samba Kings have a phenomenal team. Add that to their determination to make history, and they will be a tough team to beat.

Perhaps the only side who can do that is Spain. Right now they own just about every other title in the world of football, having won the 2010 World Cup, Euro 2012, the 2011 European Under-21 Championship and the last two European Under-19 Championships.

The winning culture has definitely been passed on from generation to generation and this Olympic team has plenty of talent. As a matter of fact they will have a trio of players (Jordi Alba, Javi Martinez and Juan Mata) who lifted the Euro 2012 trophy less than a month ago in Kiev.

Of course Spain know what it’s like to win gold. They won the Olympic tournament on home soil in 1992, when the likes of Pep Guardiola and Luis Enrique were in the squad. The foundations laid by Pep as a manager at Barcelona have now allowed the current generation to reap the rewards, and the gold medal this summer would complete quite a winning cycle for "La Roja."

The greatest football team: Spain 2012 vs. Brazil 1970?

Outside of the leading favorites, we should not overlook Switzerland, whose under-17 national team put on a show on the way to winning the 2009 World Cup. Look out for players such as Fabien Frei, Pajtim Kassimi and Haris Seferovic to show off their skills.

So what about the host nation? I can’t believe Team GB manager Stuart Pearce didn’t pick David Beckham. He has been the perfect ambassador for the UK before and after London won the right to host the Olympics and on the pitch he would have contributed as much as Ryan Giggs or Craig Bellamy.

I thought the snub was unjustified, and by leaving the veteran midfielder out Pearce lost someone who would have been an inspirational figure in the dressing room. At a time when English players have an image of being spoiled brats who really don’t care much for their club or country, Becks would have been a perfect contributor to alter that.

Should Beckham be playing at the Olympics?

Pearce recently complained that there was a lack of young quality players who were available for the Games, but if you don’t pick ones who set an example then you are really not doing yourself any favors, are you?

So time for a prediction, and I say Brazil will win the gold medal. They have too much quality not to win the tournament and they will ride Neymar’s skills all the way to a victorious performance at Wembley on August 11.

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Filed under:  Football • Olympics
soundoff (28 Responses)
  1. Joao

    I really think Uruguay can be a very nice surprise in this tournament!

    July 24, 2012 at 5:49 pm | Reply
  2. Fred

    Agree with the prediction that Brazil will win GOLD!

    And win again in a couple of years in their home turf – the 2014 World Cup!

    E viva o Brasil !!

    July 24, 2012 at 8:26 pm | Reply
  3. Ian

    I agree, Pedro Uruguay coached by Tabarez and not a stand in are definitely in with a chance.

    At 7/1 are a great price too.

    July 24, 2012 at 9:07 pm | Reply
  4. mascot

    I say the four highest contenders are the following (ranked according to possibility, the way I see it):

    Team GB

    July 25, 2012 at 3:26 am | Reply
  5. Oyewole Odebunmi

    This is hard one. I believe whoever wins Olympic Football Gold Medal between Brazil vs Spain have the future to contend with.
    The Gold Medal is the only celebration the 'Samba Masters' seek compare to Spainsh side.
    Football should not totally be about winning everthing on the podium especially for such hot sides as you've stated.
    Frankly. I want an outsider or the GB Team to win it. By so doing , 2014 World Cup will be packed with lots of fire-works.

    July 25, 2012 at 4:10 am | Reply
  6. Peter

    Go go go world, and enjoy the games. Celebrate the triumph of the human race.

    July 25, 2012 at 12:41 pm | Reply
  7. James

    I think it will be between Brazil and Spain. However I ill have to say Brazil will win goal because they have got too much quality out of their young players. Spain are are contenders but without their experienced players like Xavi,Puyol,Iker Casillas,Iniesta etc they will fall into Brazils trap with more young but quality players like Pato, Neymar, Ganso, Oscar, Marcelo.

    July 25, 2012 at 12:41 pm | Reply
  8. Izaq

    It's a tight call between Spain and Brazil who of recent past have disappointed when it counts.

    Brazil have the star quality but their mental readiness am not too sure about. The young stars are yet to prove themselves on the big stage of international stage playing together the samba way, the way of the 3 Rs. On paper they have come to a gun fight with a full magazine then some, just hope the marksmanship is good enough.

    Spainish contingent on the other hand come on a background of victories in more tournaments at the international level than current samba crop. The expectations are immense since the country has been on a winning streak, rated number 1 in the world, and features exciting stars. Style of play and will to win are all in place but do they have the skill and drive to actually win over the samba boys? My guess is No. The backline and goal keeper may be their biggest weakness but on a good day they will challenge well.

    This gold is Brazils to Loose.

    July 25, 2012 at 3:45 pm | Reply
  9. Bueno

    I believe it was time to win the olympic gold.

    July 25, 2012 at 4:19 pm | Reply
  10. Patrick

    I will copy and frame PPs comments so he can explain them away in two weeks time.

    GB some sort of chance? I would tremble trying to survive the series. Team GB was a disaster against BR, and could have played for 3 days without ever scoring. Beckham a figure for King and Country? Playing in the US ? come on !!

    Uruguay not even mentioned? what world do you live in?

    July 25, 2012 at 4:29 pm | Reply
  11. KevinT

    With a hairstyle like that, I do not see them winning any gold this time round.

    July 25, 2012 at 5:40 pm | Reply
  12. edgyone

    A Brazil v. Spain final with full, healthy squads would be a game to see. I always want Brazil to win, but a great game would be enough.

    July 25, 2012 at 8:22 pm | Reply
  13. Glauco Ortolano

    CNN, through Mr. Pinto, continues its quest to portray as true the pseudo supremacy of European football over the South Americans. Firstly, by attempting to compare the records of the 2012 Spain squad with the 1970 Brazil squad, which is just laughable. The 2012 Spain team has won two regional cups and just one World Cup after a very shaky start in South Africa, whereas the great 1970 Brazil squad, led by the genius of Pele, had already won the World Cups in 58 and 62 before taking home for good the Jules Rimet trophy in 1970.

    Secondly, Mr. Pinto, suggests that the 2012 Brazilian Olympic squad has best chances to win the London Olympics only because Brazil will have "Thiago Silva, Alexandre Pato, Hulk, Ganso, Marcelo – all full internationals who play for top clubs". And, of course, by "top clubs" Mr. Pinto means European clubs.

    Last but not least, Brazil has never won an Olympic gold medal in football not due to the lack of talents but because the Olympics were until recently deemed as an amateur competition and Brazilian football has always been about professionals. So, once again, leveling the importance of an Olympic gold medal in football with a FIFA World Cup title is just another gross mistake of someone not fully acquainted with the history of the sport.

    July 25, 2012 at 9:30 pm | Reply
  14. Mark Maville

    call me a loser or whatever but i think the Americans have a great shot at winning the gold!

    July 25, 2012 at 11:38 pm | Reply
  15. David

    Brazil will surely come out victorious ,just take a closer look at players individually and you will see that they will win as a team.

    July 26, 2012 at 4:46 am | Reply
  16. Fernando Duque

    Força BRASIL

    És o maior 286 atletas...quantas medalhas....força

    July 26, 2012 at 9:38 am | Reply
  17. marc

    Whoever is to win gold, will need luck and true grit, I guess you all remember 1996 Atlanta games, Brazil had all the stars, but fell short to a well organized Nigeria side, lets say they're amongst the contenders for they've always entered the Olympics with gold in mind and have fallen short, maybe we shouldn't give them pressure nor expect too much from them and then they'll deliver, but again Brazil is not the same as of old, they don't play their game any more, they need to combine samba and European game, then they'll succeed, let the games begin and may the best organized team prevail!!

    July 26, 2012 at 9:44 am | Reply
  18. spyroo

    mexico is the current world champion on sub17 and sub23 and beat brazil and uruguay with the same players they both have on the olimpics i think mexico has a really good shot at gold here

    July 26, 2012 at 11:26 am | Reply
  19. Marco

    I love how people discount Uruguay. Suarez and Cavani on the field, with one of the best coaches in the game, can make magic. If you want to cheer for a team that is a TEAM, cheer for Uruguay.

    July 26, 2012 at 2:23 pm | Reply
  20. Sam

    @ Mark Maville: This article is talking about Olympic Men's Football tournament. USA did not qualify for 2012 Olympic Men's Football Tournament. I am assuming you are talking about US Women's Football team. Yes they are one of the heavy favorites in 2012 Olympic Women's Football Tournament.

    July 26, 2012 at 3:59 pm | Reply
  21. Angelo costa

    Brazil viva Brazil is the Olympic golden Samba boys

    July 27, 2012 at 2:29 am | Reply
  22. Cashy

    Spyroo – the sub17 & 23 cups were played in Mexico under the heat and heights were Brazil & Uruguay are not accustomed to. Uruguay didn't have half the squad they have now... Suarez, Cavani, Tabaré Viudez, Arévalo Ríos, Gastón Ramírez, Sebastián Coates, Abel Hernández, etc did not play in either of those cups. Same goes for Brazil, so I'm not sure what games were you watching. No wonder why Mexico has played so bad in these past friendly matches.

    July 27, 2012 at 4:21 am | Reply
  23. oneworld2

    Stakes are high???
    No way, Olympic Football does not count at all.
    Thats why they don't send there best platers.

    July 27, 2012 at 8:25 am | Reply
  24. apenteado

    I concur with Pedro, what on earth was going on with Pearce to leave Beckham out, I imagine the whole brand Becks out of the pitch, but then you have to call in the est of the Manchester United that guy that is alittle bit a copycat of Beckham and others that honestly would not help the GB team.

    I am totally putting my expectations on Brazil, obviously yesterday's Egypt added a little bit of drama, and some moments of the game I thought I was watching a local Brazilian team playing as Egyptians went for tackle as they were in a rugby game, no one told them it was football or soccer for American spelling.

    USA women's football team are heavy to take in, but I hope the Canarinho Brazilian girls will deliver, they are focused from what I saw on TV. Heading to watch the final in loco if I get lucky on my digital bet!

    July 27, 2012 at 9:10 am | Reply
  25. Machoka Sam


    August 7, 2012 at 1:41 pm | Reply
  26. Dr.Cajetan Coelho

    Brazil has depth. The Samba boys fought well. A few times they came from behind scoring stunning victories. The summit clash against challengers Mexico will be yet another test for Mano Menezes and his boys. Good luck to the finalists and their fans.

    August 8, 2012 at 11:17 am | Reply
  27. torete4444

    What about now where was Uruguay, did not see them at the final.............was it to warm or was it to hight, or maybe now were to many good players.........................................................................

    August 28, 2012 at 5:42 pm | Reply
  28. rick md

    sorry, but no: MEXICO CAMPEON OLIMPICO!!!

    September 4, 2012 at 11:09 pm | Reply

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