Argentina enter with rematch
© AFP

Group A of the Men's Olympic Football Tournament gets underway on Thursday 7 August in Shanghai. First up are Australia and Serbia, and both will be desperate to kick off their campaign by taking all three points. Next on the bill are reigning champions Argentina, who will need to be at their very best to quell the threat of youthful West Africans Côte d'Ivoire.

The games
Australia-Serbia, 7 August, 17:00 (local time), Shanghai
Argentina-Côte d'Ivoire, 7 August, 19:45 (local time), Shanghai

The context
Australia-Serbia
Australia, an Olympic Football Tournament ever-present since 1988, have set their sights on picking up their first medal in the competition here in China. Their opening obstacle comes in the shape of Serbia, taking part in the showpiece event for the first time since separating from Montenegro in 2006. The Serbs will be hoping to do significantly better than their group clash with the Olyroos back at Athens 2004, which ended in a 5-1 humbling in Heraklion.

Argentina-Côte d'Ivoire
The group's second match pits Argentina against Côte d'Ivoire in a rematch of the pair's opening game at the 2006 FIFA World Cup Germany™. Of the two squads that evening in Hamburg, only four names are available for selection this time around: Oscar Ustari and Lionel Messi, both on the bench in Germany, and starters Javier Mascherano and Juan Roman Riquelme. The Ivorians may be lacking in experience, this being their first Olympic Football Tournament, but they have all the ingredients required to unsettle coach Sergio Batista's Albiceleste.

The player to watch: Oscar Ustari (ARG)
The Argentinian custodian takes a heavy burden into his first game: the Albiceleste have not conceded in this competition since 3 August 1996. Having failed to reach Sydney 2000 and kept a clean sheet throughout their triumphant Athens 2004 campaign, the last player to breach an Argentinian Olympic backline was Emmanuel Amunike, whose 90th-minute strike sealed gold for Nigeria in Atlanta.

The numbers game
3 - The number of teams in this group that shared Group C at Athens 2004. On that occasion Argentina and Australia stormed through to the next phase. Four years on, Serbia will be out for revenge.

The quotes

"The opening game is always important, because it sets the tone for what comes next. Even so, we prefer to get off to a low-profile start. If you do that, then you can only improve," Australia midfielder David Carney.

"If we play with a winning mentality, we can go very far in this tournament. We're not the favourites, but we'll do everything we can to go a long way. We're a group of friends who want to make their mark on world football, and these Games are our chance to do just that," Côte d'Ivoire defender Souleymane Bamba.

The question
Will Argentina repeat the success of 2004?