CARDIFF, Wales —
Gold-medal favorite Brazil scored three first-half goals then held on for a 3-2 win over Egypt in its opening Olympic match in Group C on Thursday.
Rafael opened the scoring in the 16th minute, Leandro Damiao added another in the 26th and Neymar scored in the 30th to give Brazil a comfortable halftime lead before Egypt made it interesting with goals by captain Mohamed Aboutrika in the 52nd and substitute Mohamed Salah in the 76th.
Brazil was able to control the rest of the game and held on for the victory, staying on track for its first gold in Olympic men's soccer. It leads Group C along with Belarus, which beat New Zealand 1-0 in Coventry.
"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."
The Olympic tournament is the only significant soccer competition the five-time world champions haven't conquered. Brazil earned silver medals in 1984 and 1988, and bronze ones in 1996 and 2008.
Brazil is one of the few teams with many of its top players in the Olympic tournament and is one of the top contenders for the gold. Several of its players likely will be on the team that will try to win the World Cup at home in 2014.
Egypt dominated the first few minutes of the match at Millennium Stadium but Brazil slowly grabbed control.
The Egyptians entered the competition trying to restore some of the country's soccer pride nearly six months after the stadium riot that killed more than 70 people and forced the suspension of the national league.
Manchester United right back Rafael scored the first goal after a perfect through ball by newly signed Chelsea playmaker Oscar. Rafael cleared a defender with one touch and fired a low left-footed shot into the net.
"We showed our quality in the first half," Rafael said. "We weren't able to keep playing as well but in the end it was a good result."
Oscar set up the second goal too, beating a defender and the goalkeeper to a long ball lobbed into the area and sending a pass back toward Damiao, whose shot easily got past the lone Egyptian defender trying to block the net.
"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."
Neymar, seen as Brazil's future star, added to the lead after finding Hulk open on the left side of the area. The FC Porto forward crossed the ball back and Neymar headed it in from close range.
Egypt pulled one closer after a set piece from just outside the area in the 52nd. Meteab Emad struck the post after the cross into the box and Aboutrika scored off the rebound.
Salah got the Egyptians even closer after the defenders failed to clear a ball inside the area and allowed him to get a shot into the left corner.
"If we hadn't the mistakes in the first half maybe we could've had a better result at the end, but that's football, we will have to learn from it," Egypt coach Hany Ramzy said. "I'm proud of my team, especially in the second half."
Brazil employed an offensive scheme that included Oscar, Neymar, Hulk and Leandro Damiao near the front, but it was Egypt which started well and had the game's first chance with forward Mohamed El Neny in the third minute. He made it through the Brazilian defense inside the area but had his tough angle shot tipped wide by goalkeeper Neto.
Neymar nearly scored in the 10th after a nice play by Hulk, who cleared a defender in the box and set up the striker's low shot that went just wide. Neymar's firm header in the 54th also came close, forcing Ahmed Elshenawi to make a difficult save.
Salah put more pressure on Brazil after Egypt's first goal in the second half, but he took too long to get a shot off and his close range strike was blocked in the 56th.
Neto was making his debut with the Brazilian national team after replacing injured regular starter Rafael, who was dropped from the squad earlier in the week because of a right elbow injury from practice.
Neto nearly gave a goal away early in the first half when he allowed an Egyptian striker to get too close to him and almost didn't have time to get the ball away.
The match was played in front of nearly 27,000 mostly pro-Brazil fans at the Millennium stadium in Cardiff, Wales.
Brazil will play its second match against Belarus on Sunday while Egypt will face New Zealand the same day.
Senegal 1, Great Britain 1
Moussa Konate scored late in the second half to lift Senegal to a 1-1 tie against host Britain in an Olympic soccer match Thursday.
Playing in its first Olympic competition since 1960, Britain faded after Craig Bellamy scored in the first half. The Welshman pounced on Ryan Giggs' free kick into the box, driving a shot into the ground that bounced to the left of keeper Ousmane Mane.
Senegal's best chance in the first half came six minutes later, when British keeper Jack Butland sent a clearing attempt into the path of Sadio Mane. But the striker chipped high and wide.
Senegal's players, most of whom play in European leagues, fared better after the break.
Ibrahima Balde tried to tie it two minutes into the half with a low shot, but Butland got a hand to it and turned the ball past the post. Butland responded again in the 55th minute, tipping Saliou Ciss' attempt over the goal, and Britain defender Danny Rose was there to head away Papa Gueye's header on the resulting corner.
Senegal finally scored in the 81st minute when Konate ran to a through ball and chipped it past Butland.
A frantic final few minutes included British substitute Marvin Sordell hitting the bar. Konate's attempt for a second goal went wide.
The match was played in front of a near capacity crowd at Old Trafford, most of whom had never seen a British soccer team take the field in a major competition.
The country's English, Welsh, Scottish and Northern Irish soccer associations had resisted the idea of a Britain team, fearing it could jeopardize their independence within global soccer. Given Britain is hosting the games, they agreed to field a team this time around, though only Welsh and English players are represented.
Uruguay 2, UAE 1
Substitute Nicolas Lodeiro scored in the second half to give Uruguay a 2-1 victory over the United Arab Emirates in men's Olympic soccer Thursday.
Playing in front of a near capacity crowd at Old Trafford Stadium, the Emirates took the lead in the 23rd minute and looked like the better side for much of the first half of its Olympic soccer debut. Emirates captain Ismaeil Matar scored when he got around the goalkeeper after controlling a through ball.
But with four minutes to go before the break, Uruguay's Gaston Ramirez curled the ball into the top right-hand corner of the net on a free kick. The goal came after striker Luis Suarez, who also plays for Liverpool, was fouled just outside the penalty area.
Lodeiro came on for the second half and converted a close shot in the 55th minute following a fluid Uruguayan move down the left side.
Uruguay, which won the tournament in 1924 and 1928, is seen as a medal contender.
"The team still needs to work on fitness. With the entrance of Lodeiro in the second half, we gained control and possession, but we still have work to do," coach Oscar Tabarez said.
The Emirates plays host Britain next.
"It was a high-level game," Matar said. "If you get a chance, you have to finish that chance."
Gabon 1, Switzerland 1
Gabon rallied for a 1-1 Group B draw against Switzerland in its Olympics debut on Thursday.
Admir Mehmedi put Switzerland ahead by converting an early penalty kick he was forced to retake after Innocent Emeghara was brought down inside the area.
Gabon tied it in the 45th minute. Pierre Aubameyang collected Alexander Ndoumbou's floated cross alone inside the area and flicked a shot under goalkeeper Diego Benaglio.
Switzerland finished with 10 men after Oliver Buff was shown his second yellow card in the 78th for theatrically going down under little pressure as he burst into the African nation's area.
South Korea 0, Mexico 0
South Korea wasted a number of scoring chances against Mexico as the two teams opened Group B soccer at the Olympics with a 0-0 draw Thursday.
With forward Giovani Dos Santos on the bench from the start, Mexico showed little promise of being a medal contender as its opponent dominated at St. James Park.
Both teams struggled to find their rhythm on the slippery turf, but the tempo picked up in the second half, which saw more scoring occasions.
Koo Ja-cheol came close to breaking the deadlock in the 53rd minute as the South Korea captain swiveled to send a volley off the crossbar. Koo headed the game's best chance wide in the 80th after getting free inside the box.
Substitute Raul Jimenez nearly helped Mexico escape with three points but curled his effort off the post after a swift counterattack in the last minute of play.
While South Korea was without creative midfielder Han Kook-young because of a broken left foot, it still continued to create better opportunities after the break before goalkeeper Jose Corona tipped away Ki Sung-yueng's rising shot.
Dos Santos replaced Oribe Peralta in the 66th and soon had an effort deflected wide. Dos Santos then met Darvin Chavez's ball into the area in the 88th but guided his shot wide of the post.
"We expected a game like this," Mexico coach Luis Fernando Tena said. "We never thought it would be easy. I think it was a fair result."
Mexico plays Gabon on Sunday, while South Korea faces Switzerland.
Japan 1, Spain 0
Japan forward Yuki Otsu scored in the first half in a 1-0 win over 10-man Spain on Thursday in men's Olympic soccer, hurting the Spaniards' chances of winning a gold medal.
Otsu broke away from his marker during a corner kick and tapped a shot past goalkeeper David de Gea.
Spain center back Inigo Martinez was sent off while trying to stop Japan forward Kensuke Nagai during a goal-scoring opportunity. After that, Japan controlled the tempo and could have scored at least five more.
Honduras 2, Morocco 2
Short-handed Morocco held on for a 2-2 draw against Honduras in the Group D opener at the Olympics on Thursday.
Morocco left back Zakarya Bergdich received a straight red card in the 71st minute for kicking Mario Martinez in the left knee. But Honduras was unable to take advantage of the ejection.
Morocco opened the scoring in the 39th minute when Abdelaziz Barrada converted a superb volley.
Jerry Bengtson responded in the 56th minute, tapping in the tying goal, then put the Central American team in front with a penalty kick nine minutes later.
But Honduras' advantage only lasted a couple minutes, with Morocco forward Zakaria Labyad chipping past the goalkeeper from inside the area.
Honduras plays Spain next, while Morocco takes on Japan. Both matches are in Newcastle on Sunday.
Belarus 1, New Zealand 0
Dmitry Baga scored in the first half to give Belarus a 1-0 win over New Zealand in their Group C opener at the Olympics on Thursday.
Baga converted a header just before halftime, and Belarus held on to the narrow lead to secure the three points at City of Coventry Stadium.
Belarus dominated the first half, but New Zealand came out strong in the second half. It just was unable to break through the Europeans' defense.
Belarus faces tournament favorite Brazil on Sunday in its second game of the group stage. New Zealand plays Egypt.