The 2020 Olympic men’s football tournament kicks off this week with a host of star names participating despite struggles due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
The hosts from Japan are in Group A with France and Mexico and between them the three have a lot of quality as there remain uncertainties over the South African delegation after a number of positive COVID-19 tests.
Spain and Argentina meet in Group C with the UEFA Euro 2020 semi-finalists bringing together a number of players from this summer’s continental competition.
Meanwhile, Group D includes Brazil, Germany and Ivory Coast with familiar faces from European club football on each team.
We take a look at the selection of talent on display at the Tokyo Games.
Brazil: Dani Alves
In terms of silverware earned over a long and distinguished career, few can compete with the 38-year-old after stints with Barcelona, ââParis Saint-Germain, Juventus and Sevilla.
Back in his home country with Sao Paulo after finishing his European career in Paris alongside his close friend and former teammate Neymar, AndrÃ© Jardine’s men will draw on his considerable experience in Japan.
Alves is not alone in the Brazilian squad with Diego Carlos of Sevilla, Douglas Luiz of Aston Villa, Bruno Guimaraes of Olympique Lyonnais, Matheus Cunha of Hertha Berlin, Richarlison of Everton, Malcom of Zenit Saint Petersburg and Gabriel Martinelli of Arsenal. At all levels of the international game, Brazil has top talent to spare.
France: AndrÃ©-Pierre Gignac
Back in blue for the first time since 2016, when he was part of the squad for the UEFA European Championship at home, the 35-year-old is another golden alumnus looking to help a talented generation of young players to fame in Tokyo.
Since moving to Mexico with Tigres UANL in 2015, Gignac has become a legend not only with his club but more broadly in Mexican football with nine titles to his name, including the 2020 CONCACAF Champions League which almost resulted in success. of the FIFA Club World Cup as well. .
The former Olympique de Marseille man is supported by the recent acquisition of the Tigers and former OM teammate Florian Thauvin while the underestimated Teji Savanier of Montpellier HSC finally obtains international recognition at the age of 29.
Although the French struggled to persuade clubs to release their players for the Games, Sylvain Ripoll managed to attract a gifted group with Lucas Tousart from Hertha, Pierre Kalulu from AC Milan and Modibo Sagnan from Real Sociedad coming from abroad.
Spain: Dani Olmo
Spain arguably have the most stacked squad in terms of talent and in-depth strength, but the RB Leipzig man is the star. Since he is also on the threshold of 23, he is not a major player for this edition either.
Interestingly, Olmo – who missed a penalty as Italy qualified for the final – is joined by five other members of the Spanish squad who have just reached the semi-finals of the UEFA Euro 2020 with Pedri, Mikel Oyarzabal, Pau Torres, Unai Simon and Eric Garcia also. make the trip.
Real Madrid duo Dani Ceballos and Marco Asensio, as well as Real Sociedad’s Mikel Merino are the three major players at La Rojita, but none of them are over 25. Also in the squad are Jesus Vallejo of Real and Carlos Soler of Valencia CF.
Spanish clubs, unlike the French, were forced to release players for the Games, which made it much easier for Luis de la Fuente to build a competitive squad.
Germany: Max Kruse
The reformed bad boy of German football is their star player at these Games thanks to a successful return to the Bundesliga with Union Berlin after a difficult period in Turkey with Fenerbahce.
Kruse, now 33, Maximilian Arnold and Nadiem Amiri are the three players over the age of 23 selected by Germany boss Stefan Kuntz after leading his country to the Under-21 victory at the Euro just a few months ago in Ljublana.
The group also includes Benjamin Heinrichs of RB Leipzig and Ismail Jakobs of AS Monaco who will be familiar to German and French football fans with Svend Brodersen of Yokohama FC, a rare non-Japanese player who plies his trade in the top national J1 league of the host country. .
Japan: Hiroki Sakai
While Real Madrid’s Takefusa Kubo is undoubtedly the star man of the hosts, Hiroki Sakai of Urawa Red Diamonds and Maya Yoshida of Sampdoria are very experienced members of Hajime Moriyasu’s squad and add a solid base to a squad. which also includes Takehiro Tomiyasu and Ritsu Doan. .
Yoshida has made his voice heard in his grim vision of the Olympics going behind closed doors, but that is unlikely to dampen Japanese enthusiasm as they go for home gold with Sakai returning from Europe for the first time since 2012 after leaving Marseille – – where he played with Thauvin.
Other notable players in Olympic service this summer are the veteran Mexico goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa from Club America in a team that also includes Real Betis Diego Lainez as the only player based overseas.
New Zealand have a pair of Premier League Winston reid and Chris Wood playing while South Korea Kwon Chang Hoon and Hwang Ui-jo de Bordeaux could draw attention in a Korean squad that also includes Valencia talent Lee Kang-in.
Considering that a plethora of their most experienced stars have just won the Copa America in Brazil, Argentina’s most recognizable name is Velez Sarsfield prodigy Thiago Almada and he could play a starring role before making the jump to Europe.
Alexis Mac Allister of Brighton and Hove Albion are also familiar with the Albiceleste while Ezequiel Barco of Atlanta United and Claudio Bravo of Portland Timbers represent Major League Soccer with Douglas Martinez of Honduras of Real Salt Lake.
Ivory Coast also has a good experience in its ranks with the Milanese Franck Kessie, that of Manchester United Eric Bailly and Sivasspor Max-Alain Gradel all are part of a group which has only two representatives from their national league.