Of the 16 teams that qualified for the 2016 Men’s Olympic Football Tournament, only Portugal and Nigeria are the only two teams that have secured their places in the next phase. Two teams, Fiji and Algeria have crashed out, leaving 12 teams battling over the remaining six slots in the last eight stage of the tournament.
It all adds up to what should be an exhilarating third round of matches, packed with decisive confrontations today.
The matches in each group will start at the same time, meaning that not only will teams have to go head to head to keep their chances of a medal alive, but coaches and fans will need to stay tuned to what is happening kilometers away in the other group game, keeping an eye on possible favourable combinations of results. It promises to be a nerve-wracking day.
Of course, the match of the day is the match-up between Denmark and host Brazil at the Arena Fonte Nova in Salvador.
After going 180 minutes without a goal, Brazil must now try to find a way to avoid early elimination from Group A.
Rogério Micale’s side has two points after draws with South Africa and Iraq. A win will be enough to guarantee qualification, whereas defeat will mean elimination.
Against the Nordic youngsters, however, the hosts will again face an organised, defensive side, posing challenges to the creativity and mobility of undeniably talented players like Neymar and young forwards such as Gabigol and Gabriel Jesus, who have yet to truly click up front.
For the Danes, a draw will be enough to ensure qualification after their 1-0 victory over South Africa, a match which featured the only goal of the group so far.
At the same time, Iraq and South Africa meet in São Paulo, with both sides still in with a chance of qualifying for the next round.
Nigeria has not only qualified from Group B but have also clinched first place in the group. They will take on Colombia in São Paulo, therefore, simply needing to complete their fixture list. The South Americans, however, need a win to advance regardless of the outcome of the Japan-Sweden clash in Salvador, familiar territory for some of their players.
Japan, meanwhile, fought out a heroic draw against Colombia in the second round to stave off elimination, and even overtook the Swedes based on number of goals scored – giving them the advantage in any potential tiebreaker. Now the two teams face each other, with both hoping that Nigeria can pick up their third consecutive win.
Only Fiji is out of contention in Group C. The debutants have improved over the first two rounds though, and even led at half time against Mexico before once again crashing to a heavy defeat. Opponents Germany, currently third in the group, will have to attack from the start in Belo Horizonte in search of not only three points but also a healthy goal difference in case Korea Republic and Mexico should draw in Brasília.
In that situation all three teams would finish on five points. Korea Republic leads the group at the moment thanks to their superior goal difference.
Finally, in Group D, Portugal will seek their third win in the competition against an already-eliminated Algeria side in Belo Horizonte.
All eyes, then, will be on the clash between Argentina and Honduras who each have three points. Honduras, led by tournament specialist Jorge Luis Pinto, will go through with just a draw in Brasília.