Brazil heads to the land of the rising sun to defend their Olympic Gold that they won in 2016 and they protect a formidable record in the competition, having placed in the medal positions in each of the last three editions.
They’ll get stern competition from France, Spain and Germany in Japan though, who have all named strong squads. Football at the Olympics is an U23 tournament but each squad is permitted to name three overage stars.
Here are seven stars, at both ends of the age spectrum, that we’ll be keeping an eye out for.
🇯🇵 Takehiro Tomiyasu
22-year-old Bologna defender Tomiyasu has caught the eye of new Tottenham boss Nuno Espírito Santo, who hopes to conclude a deal for the versatile Japanese star before long. He’s a talented ball-carrier out of defence and will be a key man for the host nation.
🇫🇷 André-Pierre Gignac
Although Tigres teammate and 2018 World Cup winner Florian Thuavin will be the key creative force for France, 35-year-old Gignac will be a massive attraction at the games. He’s scored 149 goals since moving to San Nicolás de Los Garza in Mexico some six years ago, and become a Tigres legend in the process. He’s not represented his country since 2016 so this is an opportunity for him to showcase his talents in front of goal.
🇪🇸 Marco Asensio
There’s no doubt about the talent in Marco Asensio’s feet, even though he’s become a bit-part player at Real Madrid in recent seasons. Still only 25, Asensio holds the unique honour of having scored on debut in five different competitions for Los Blancos, and his wand of a left foot is a match-winning weapon when he’s in the mood.
🇨🇮 Amad Diallo
Ivorian teenager Amad Diallo joined Man United for an initial fee in excess of £20m but he’s taking it all in his stride. The flamboyant winger only made five senior appearances for Atalanta but the Red Devils were already convinced of his quality.
Amad has the pace and skill to burn any defender in his wake. Not usually known for his aerial prowess, he scored a sublime header to open his account for United against AC Milan back in March , but it’s on the ground where Amad will be doing most of his damage in Japan.
🇰🇷 Kang-in Lee
Kang-in Lee only turned 20 in February but his name has already been one to watch on the European scene for some time. The Valencia playmaker is the youngest player in South Korea’s Olympic squad but arguably also one of the most important.
South Korea scooped Bronze in 2012 and they’ll be looking to win another medal here; Kang-in is a livewire and will be key to their chances of doing just that.
🇪🇸 Dani Olmo
Eventual Euro 2020 champions Italy had to survive an almighty scare against Spain in the semifinals. One of the standout individuals on that night was RB Leipzig’s versatile attacker Dani Olmo – he was deployed in a false 9 role and his running power and intelligence created all sorts of problems for Leo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini.
Still only 23, Olmo has only ever played his senior club football outside of Spain with Dinamo Zagreb and Leipzig.
🇧🇷 Dani Alves
Barcelona and Brazil icon Dani Alves is 38 years old but we’re excited to see what tricks he’ll conjure up for the defending champions at the 2020 Olympics. He’s no stranger to winning, with 42 trophies to his name over the duration of a legendary career for club and country. Alves has been sporting the number 10 jersey at São Paulo from a marauding right wing-back role in recent seasons, which is just further proof that he’s built differently. Dani Alves would dearly love to add an Olympic Gold medal to his considerable haul, and his experience could prove vital to a talented Seleção group.
It’s genuinely mind-boggling that Pedri is still only 18 years old. He was included in the Euro 2020 Best XI and named the best young player at the tournament, and nobody can dispute either of those accolades.
He only missed a minute of the entire tournament but his status as an indispensable first-team regular, coupled with his desire to play as much football as possible, means that he won’t get a break until after the Olympics. Fortunately for Pedri, he has a great engine.
📈 Pedri posted some astonishing numbers at Euro 2020:
🎯 Most final third passes completed (177)
🥾 Fifth-most passes completed (421)
🔮 Fifth-most chances created (11)
🌟 Barça’s 18-year-old sensation will be one of the star attractions at the upcoming Olympic Games. pic.twitter.com/3MAp9ykoqB
— Futaa.com (@Futaacom) July 19, 2021
What a tournament we’re set for in Japan!