Uruguay-United Arab Emirates Preview
In what will be an Olympic appetizer to the main course of Britain-Senegal later that night, Uruguay faces the United Arab Emirates at Old Trafford on Thursday in a Group A matchup.
Uruguay has been tipped as group and possible tournament favorites, but the London Games will mark the country's first taste of Olympic football since it won back-to-back titles in 1924 and '28.
"There has to be a link between this team and the team that won the gold medal before," said manager Oscar Tabarez as he reflected on his country's 80-year absence from the competition.
Uruguay midfielder Gaston Ramirez revealed that the squad has been watching vintage footage of the 1920s' national powerhouses to inspire it over the next two-plus weeks.
"We have had to watch the Olympics as spectators until now, so we are very proud to be able to be here," said Ramirez. "We want to enjoy it to the full and stay in the competition as long as possible.
"We have watched some videos of the last time Uruguay won the gold medal in 1928. I think it's important to be at the Olympics again and hopefully win it again.
"We are trying to enjoy this because you don't get to go to the Olympics every day. It's been a long time for Uruguay. We want to keep calm, enjoy it and if we can win, then all the better."
Uruguay owns one of the more formidable programs in international soccer as evidenced by a fourth-place finish at the 2010 World Cup and a triumphant 2011 Copa America.
The squad for London will be spearheaded by Liverpool's Luis Suarez and Napoli's Edison Cavani. With such a potent front line, the South Americans like their chances against group underdogs UAE, which will be making its Summer Games debut.
"It is a dream for us to be taking part," admitted UAE forward Ismaeil Matar. "It is a great feeling. It will be a good experience for all of us, a big thing in our lives. It is the biggest tournament I have ever played in.
"Of course, it is a tough group but we have confidence in ourselves. We have been together a long time as a squad and that is good. I don't think they (Uruguay) are the favorites, but I know the first game will be the key for us. The favorites will be determined by all the games in the group."
Both teams play their second matches at Wembley Stadium on Sunday, with Uruguay facing Senegal and UAE playing Olympic host Britain.