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China, Italy, Australia happy with Olympic draw

SoccerNews in General Soccer News 21 Apr 2008

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China coach Ratomir Dujkovic admits Brazil are favourites to win the men’s Olympic football gold medal but feels his side has an excellent chance of joining them in the knockout rounds.

Brazil, who are expected to field superstars Kaka and Alexandre Pato, and China were drawn in the same group on Sunday, but they avoided defending champions Argentina and World Cup holders Italy.

Also in their section are Belgium and New Zealand, with the top two from each group progressing to the quarter-finals.

Hosts China open their Group C account against New Zealand on August 7 and play their final match against Brazil.

“It’s not a bad draw. Of course I hope Brazil will play with us when it already has six points. Then we have a big chance of advancing into the next round with them,” Dujkovic told the China Daily newspaper.

“Though Brazil is hot favourite of the group and is also the title favourite, I still hope we can make some trouble. We are playing at home and though we respect Brazil we will not give up.”

China’s former PSV Eindhoven defender Sun Xiang added: “Brazil will be the toughest rivals of this group.

“Belgium represent European opposition but given that their senior side are not that strong, I think we can compete against them at the Olympic level.

“New Zealand are the least known for us but we should have our chance against them.”

Argentina will be pleased with the way the draw panned out for them, pitted in Group A with Olympic newcomers Ivory Coast, surprise European qualifiers Serbia and Australia’s Olyroos.

Despite their tough group, Australia coach Graham Arnold is convinced his side can make the quarter-finals.

“We know we can get through this group, we have history and also we have had such a tough schedule just to make it this far, which will hold us in good stead,” he said.

“Playing in Asia has taught us a lot about the conditions we will face in China and that could also give us an advantage.”

Group B comprises three-time bronze-medalists The Netherlands, the United States, Nigeria and Asian stalwarts Japan, while Italy take on South Korea, Cameroon and Honduras in Group D.

Italy coach Pierluigi Casiraghi was happy with the draw.

“I think it’s a good draw for us, even if it is a bit difficult as we don’t know the Olympic teams we will be facing very well,” he said.

“But we will analyse them now. Cameroon can prove very difficult and South Korea are almost playing at home. Our first goal is to go through the group stage — and then we’ll see.”

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