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Monday, 04 August 2008

Game of the week: Brazil v Belgium

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The Olympic football tournament will generate very little interest in the UK over the next few weeks but around the world it is a different story.

Perhaps surprisingly the level of interest is highest in countries where winning the Olympics would seem to be very low down the list of footballing priorities.

Argentine go into the tournament as the reigning champions, much to the chagrin of their great rivals Brazil, who have never won the competition.

Its historical and monder-day importance to the greatest footballing nation on earth is reflected in the fact that current national team coach Dunga will take charge of the Olympic squad and will oversee a team that contains not only dazzling prospects such as Alexandre Pato of AC Milan and new Manchester City star Jo, but that also includes Ronaldinho as one of their three permitted over-23 players.

Indeed such is the importance placed on the tournament in the region that respected South American football expert Tim Vickery told the BBC that the Olympics could be make-or-break for under-fire Dunga, coming as they do in the middle of the World Cup qualifying marathon.

"Ronaldinho is a very important member of our squad and he is recovering from his problems," the coach told the Brazilian press recently.

Ronaldinho looked in decent nick in a recent warm-up game against Singapore and will be the clear favourites to progress from Group C alongside opening-game opponents Belgium.

Although the spotlight will be firmly on Brazil, Belgium are expected to perform well in the competition. and have named a squad containing well-regarded prospects Anthony Vanden Borre and striker Kevin Mirallas.

The two sides meet on Thursday, the same day as 2/1 tournament favourites Argentina meet Serbia and hosts China face New Zealand.

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Alex Wolstenholme



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