The final countdown to the Men’s and Women’s Olympic Football Tournaments London 2012 began at Wembley Stadium on Tuesday as the draw for the group phases of both competitions was held.
Three months and a day before the action gets under way, the venue for both finals provided a suitably imposing setting for the event, which determined the path the teams must take if they are to claim gold.
Former England centre-forward Gary Lineker hosted the ceremony, held in the Bobby Moore Room, while legendary Brazilian goal machine Ronaldo and pop singer Melanie C stepped up on stage to help pull the names out of the hats.
Also lending their assistance as the fate of the qualifying nations was revealed were ex-Wales international Robbie Savage, former Scotland forward Kevin Gallacher and England’s national women’s team striker Kelly Smith.
In the women’s competition, reigning world champions Japan will take on Canada in their opening game, while defending Olympic champions USA were pitched against France to start the tournament. The hosts will face Senegal and New Zealand in the men’s and women’s opening games respectively.
Following the draw Men's Great Britain coach Stuart Pearce said: "Uruguay will be tough but I wouldn't dismiss anyone. The addition of three overage players can contribute to a really strong side. It will be tough, tournament football always is. Everyone in the squad will have star quality but I'll pick the squad on merit."
His Women's counterpart Hope Powell was similarly focused on a South American match-up. "Brazil will be a great game at Wembley, they are always there or thereabouts in major tournaments. Now it is down to our preparations. We have every chance of progressing but we can't take it lightly. We played New Zealand in the World Cup last year and it was a very tough encounter. Cameroon are an unknown quantity."
Powell was also optimistic about the wider reaching impact of the tournament. "This gives us a great opportunity to showcase out sport, we open the Olympics and hopefully we can encourage more females to get into the sport."
Men’s Olympic Football Tournament
Group A: Great Britain, Senegal, UAE, Uruguay
Group B: Mexico, Korea Republic, Gabon, Switzerland
Group C: Brazil, Egypt, Belarus, New Zealand
Group D: Spain, Japan, Honduras, Morocco
Women’s Olympic Football Tournament
Group E: Great Britain, New Zealand, Cameroon, Brazil
Group F: Japan, Canada, Sweden, South Africa
Group G: USA, France, Colombia, Korea DPR