Stars assemble on opening day
© AFP

The battle for medals at the Men’s Olympic Football Tournament 2012 begins in earnest on Thursday 26 July with several mouth-watering ties on offer. Fans can look forward to top quality football, with numerous stars in the line-ups of the 16 participating teams.

Match of the day
Spain-Japan, Glasgow, 14:45 (local time)
Following their triumphs at the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™ and UEFA EURO 2012, Spain are looking to complete a remarkable treble by taking gold at London 2012. They face tough first opponents, however, as Japan were an impressive attacking unit during qualification to reach their fourth consecutive Olympics.

Other highlights
Exactly 100 years after their last men’s Olympic football success, Great Britain are out to end their title drought in front of home support and meet Senegal in their opening game. Despite coming away empty handed in the last 11 Olympic tournaments, Brazil are nonetheless among the favourites to take the crown this time. With Neymar leading the line, the South Americans will be hoping for victory in their first match against Egypt. Fellow contenders Uruguay will be relying on the threat posed by strikers Luis Suarez und Edinson Cavani when they kick off their campaign against United Arab Emirates.

Competition newcomers Gabon, who caused a major upset in 2011 by winning the CAF U-23 qualifying tournament, will be determined to pull off another surprise against Switzerland in their first outing. Elsewhere Morocco, another of the four African teams at London 2012, face Honduras, while Oceania representatives New Zealand begin against Belarus. The game between Mexico and Korea Republic also promises to be an evenly-matched and entertaining spectacle.

Player to watch
Ryan Giggs has enjoyed a long and illustrious club career with Manchester United, where he has won the UEFA Champions League twice, the English league 12 times, the FA cup four times and the League cup three times. However, the  Welsh wizard’s international trophy cabinet remains empty, as he never managed to qualify for a major tournament with his country. The veteran is therefore making a debut of sorts at London 2012, where he will lead his side out as captain.

The stat
10
- Uruguay are unbeaten in ten games at Olympic tournaments and are intent on continuing their run in London. There are not enough matches for them to break Hungary’s 18-game undefeated Olympic record just yet though, which was set between 1960 and 1972.

The words
"We have spoken about our opponents and know what kind of players they have. It's important to start with a victory, that would be a huge step and a great prize for all our hard work and preparation. It's important to finish top of our group because it makes us feel more confident, but, what matters most, is to qualify for the quarter-finals. If it's first or second in our group, it doesn't matter," Uruguay striker Luis Suarez.

The schedule
HondurasMorocco (Glasgow, 12.00*)
MexicoKorea Republic (Newcastle, 14.30)
SpainJapan (Glasgow, 14.45)
United Arab EmiratesUruguay (Manchester, 17.00)
GabonSwitzerland (Newcastle, 17.15)
BelarusNew Zealand (Coventry, 19.45)
BrazilEgypt (Cardiff, 19.45)
Great BritainSenegal (Manchester, 20.00)
*All times given are local