Belarus-Brazil Preview

Belarus-Brazil Preview

Published Jul. 28, 2012 2:51 a.m. ET

Oscar will be getting plenty of opportunities to showcase himself in London, but Brazil would first like him to help it win the elusive Olympic gold medal.

A win against upstart Belarus on Sunday would all but assure the Brazilians of a spot in the knockout round.

Oscar entered the Olympics with an increased profile after transferring to Chelsea, one of six Premier League clubs located in London, earlier this month following his rise with Brazilian club Internacional.

The 20-year-old midfielder has lived up to the hype so far, setting up two of Brazil's three first-half goals before the Selecao nearly squandered the lead in a 3-2 win over Egypt on Thursday.


Brazil is tied atop Group C with Belarus, which defeated New Zealand 1-0 on Thursday.

"We got what we needed in the opening match, and that was the victory," Brazil coach Mano Menezes said. "We built our result with a very good performance in the first half but we couldn't repeat it in the second, in part because Egypt improved and in part because of our own mistakes."

Oscar, wearing the fabled No. 10 jersey, is one of the reasons Brazil is a favorite to win the Olympic tournament for the first time after earning silver medals in 1984 and 1988, and bronze in 1996 and 2008.

"We got off on the right foot," Oscar said. "The first match is always hard but we have to be proud of what we did in the first half."

While Oscar received much of the plaudits, Neymar also scored on an exchange with Hulk as Brazil's array of offensive talent was on display.

Still, Brazil's defense may be a concern after a lapse allowed the Egyptians to pull within one goal with 14 minutes to play. It'll be up to captain Thiago Silva, considered one of the best defenders in the world, to help shore up the back line in front of Neto - now the starting goalkeeper following an elbow injury suffered by Rafael - as opponents will likely employ counter-attacking tactics to offset Brazil's offensive pressure.

Belarus, which is in the Olympic soccer tournament for the first time as an independent nation, may be hoping for a result against Brazil after Dmitry Baha scored just before the half against New Zealand to give the team some major momentum in the group. Getting at least one point against the Brazilians would put the Belarusians in a favorable position to advance to the knockout phase heading into their final match against Egypt on Wednesday.

"Getting three points in such a tournament is really great and I am very satisfied with the play of our athletes," coach Georgy Kondratyev said.

Belarus will again rely on its cohesion through familiarity - six players on the squad are from BATE Borisov, including Baha, goalkeeper Alyaksandr Hutar and offensive-minded midfielder Renan Bressan.