Another instalment of the Olympic Games is here with us, albeit a year later than originally scheduled, and it is all for the same reason most competitions were delayed – the pandemic. This edition’s football tournament will be more of an Under-24 competition, as agreed on by the organizing committee, to avoid disadvantaging the players who would have featured last season.
A number of U23 continental champions will be on show at the competition. Egypt are the African champions, while Oceania will be represented by New Zealand, Asian champions South Korea will be there, with Argentina coming from the CONMEBOL region as Germany and Mexico come in from the UEFA and CONCACAF regions.
France, Romania and Spain are the other qualifiers from the UEFA side, Ivory Coast and South Africa represent from Africa as Australia and Saudi Arabia join South Korea from the AFC side. Holders Brazil and Honduras represent from the CONMEBOL and CONCACAF regions.
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Africa U23 champions Egypt will start the competition against Spain, and there will definitely be a number of top youngsters to follow in the competition. Here we sample some of the ones expected to light up the competition.
Spain easily have one of the top squads at this competition after beefing up their U21 team with a number of players who featured at the recently concluded Euro 2020. Barcelona midfielder Pedri is one of them. He featured in all of Spain’s matches at Euro 2020, and from his performances there, all expectations will be that he holds the creative key for the Spaniards. He is an early favorite for the best player at the competition.
The Arsenal forward has blossomed since joining the Gunners, but all indications point to a yet-to-be fulfilled potential. His development last season was hampered by injury, while generally, Mikel Arteta had him as a backup player. He was a late addition to the Brazil team, and here he has the chance to show what he can do. This is his chance to not only stake a claim for a starting role at Arsenal but the Brazil senior team as well.
Ivory Coast will be another team looking to have an impact at the Olympics. They hope to join Nigeria and Cameroon as one of the African nations to win gold at this tournament. To propel that, Manchester United winger Amad Diallo will be expected to play a key role. He hasn’t really had the chance to show his best since the big-money move from Atalanta in January, and this is a chance for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer to make a judgement on the winger.
Home team, Japan will rest a lot of hopes on Kubo’s young shoulders. An academy star at Barcelona before moving to Real Madrid and going on loan at Mallorca, Kubo definitely has the talent and here’s a platform for him. He has also featured for FC Tokyo, and playing at home should give the needed push to do well.
Group A: Japan, South Africa, Mexico, France
Group B: New Zealand, South Korea, Honduras, Romania
Group C: Egypt, Spain, Argentina, Australia
Group D: Brazil, Germany, Ivory Coast, Saudi Arabia