U.S. opener against Japan will be crucial

August 5, 2008
By Jeff Carlisle, ESPNsoccernet
TIANJIN, China -- One of the supposed benefits of having a round-robin format in the first round of a tournament is that with each team playing three games, one bad result isn't fatal. But given the slate of matches thrown at the U.S. men's Olympic team, Thursday's opening encounter against Japan has the feel of a one-game playoff, and anything less than a victory will deal a devastating blow to the Americans' chances of advancing.

With the Netherlands and Nigeria the favorites ...

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