Brazil was a heavy favorite to win gold in men's soccer entering the London 2012 Olympics, even with accomplished and talented sides like Spain, Uruguay and Great Britain in the competition. Those teams are all gone, and Brazil's road to gold will new feature two teams that have never made an Olympic final before, and if Mexico defeats Japan, possibly two teams that have never captured any medal.
Brazil should defeat South Korea, even though South Korea is a solid team with a lot of accomplished professional players. It has the much more talented team and its side has been together all summer. Brazil hasn't looked spectacular for most of the tournament, however, and has made things very hard on itself in three of its four games.
Brazil allowed Egypt to mount a dramatic comeback before holding on for a 3-2 victory. It fell behind Belarus early and was outplayed for much of the first half of that game, before it turned it on in the second half. Against Honduras, it struggled even though its opponents went down to 10 men early, and eventually down to nine men.
South Korea's road to the semifinals has been similar in that it has been the better side in every one of its games, but that hasn't translated to dominating wins. It has drawn three of its four games, and its 2-1 win over Switzerland was hardly comfortable.
The Korean defense shouldn't be able to deal with Hulk, Neymar, Oscar and Leandro Damiao. They're certainly not going to pull off their second shutout of the game. But based on Brazil's play thus far, South Korea could limit Brazil to a goal or two with a combination of good defending and some good luck. Also based on Brazil's play thus far, South Korea's talented forwards could potentially score a couple of goals. Nothing about Brazil's defense has been convincing at the Olympics.
Expect Brazil to win, but expect goals from both sides as well, and don't expect a blowout.
Kickoff is at 2:45 p.m. ET from Old Trafford, and the game can be seen on NBC Sports Network in the United States.
We'll have live coverage in our London 2012 Olympics, men's soccer semifinals StoryStream.