Nicolás Miremont –
On August 3 the Rio Olympic football tournament set off with the women’s football match between Sweden and South Africa. The most ancient sports competition, the Olympics, is now underway. Athletes from all over the world are as ready as they have ever been to show the whole planet what their nations are capable of.
The last couple of months, however, have not been the cause of the usual anticipation, as Brazil is not going through the best of periods. Brazil’s president Dilma Rousseff has been impeached after her participation in certain illegal operations.
Furthermore, Dilma’s populist politics have not produced the desired (or at least promised) result economy-wise, and the social crisis has been increasing without stopping for quite a long time now.
All these obstacles have darkened the true meaning of the Olympics which are, after all, a celebration. Constant riots in Rio de Janeiro have risen, questioning the instances of corruption during Brazil’s organization of the 2014 World Cup and the Olympics.
This, added to the threat of the Zika virus the wandering ghost of terrorism, construction delays, unsuitable infrastructure, scandals and elevated levels of poverty and social chaos have turned the first Olympics ever to be held in South America into an uncomfortable event.
Football Is Surprisingly Set To Be The Main Attraction
Even if it hurts our pride as fans, football has never been the dominant sport in the Olympics, with a few exceptions a decade ago when Lionel Messi and Kun Agüero were still under the age of 23—which is (with two exceptions per squad), the maximum age for players participating in the tournament.
Nevertheless, the lack of the major stars in the main sports, the ban received by the Russian Federation due to the doping scandal and other regrettable situations for those who love sports have given football a slight chance of being the centre of attention once yet again.
As always, most of the spotlight will be focused on the teams from the Americas. Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, Honduras and Colombia are our representatives this time. Each player knows that this is the perfect chance of consolidating themselves as potential stars; this is why good and fast-paced football is always guaranteed.
Mexico is the defending champion, there is nothing much to say after you defeat Brazil at Wembley before the eyes of the entire world. Although the line-up might not be the same, it would be silly to deny that Mexico is not learning how to win important matches.
Honduras and Colombia will have the opportunity to show off their American craftiness for the game, the same attribute which often makes the rest of the world shiver. Both nations have now been in Europe’s radar for quite some time, since they have proven to have a solid foundation at their disposal, making good appearances at the World Cup, and have also provided a large number of players to the European leagues.
In regards to Argentina, we are undergoing a pitiful situation at our Association. Manager Julio Olarticoechea was picked as an emergency option and most of our young stars have refused to represent our country, which is completely understandable given the difficult situation at the AFA (read more on this here), and is the reason why the national team struggled to get even 18 players (the minimum number) to participate.
Despite the fact that this is the Olympics at stake, no one is willing to risk his professional career, as the games clash with schedule of many major clubs, and even less putting his future at stake, if we consider the chances of contracting Zika or being involved in an eventual terrorist attack. But even without Messi, Argentina has one of the best teams, and has already shown good signs of composure and order.
When it comes to Brazil, it would be accurate to say that the Brazilian players have a much bigger responsibility on their shoulders. This is what makes the Rio Olympics so important for Brazil. Here, they have the chance of winning their first gold medal ever. No, we are not mistaken; Brazil has never won a golden medal before. The inclusion of Neymar Jr., Gabriel Barbosa, Felipe Anderson, Renato Augusto and Marquinhos in the squad is not a coincidence. Brazil needs to succeed in something after being slaughtered by Germany in that semi-final two years ago, and they will do everything it takes until they do.
The Verde-amarela (Green and Yellow) are only a couple of good performances away of repaying a historical debt and justifying the nation’s astronomical investments by covering up the crisis using a blanket of joy. This ambitious achievement would surely make every rumour about Brazil drifting apart from the world’s best vanish instantly as well.
Rio Olympic Football Tournament – Looking Ahead
The Group Stage consists of three matches before advancing to the Quarter Final stage. There are two time zones, since the Olympics will be hosted in more than one city. They are GMT -3:00 for Manaos and GMT -2:00 for the rest of the cities.
- Group A (Denmark, Iraq, South Africa). This group could be very accessible for Brazil, with the greatest threat being Iraq, who have already participated in four Olympics—their best position was a fourth place at the 2004 Olympics.
- Manager: Micale Rogerio (49)
- Players to watch for:
Neymar Jr. (FC Barcelona): The leader of his nation, it is time to win.
Felipe Anderson (Lazio): A very gifted, classy winger. A great future awaits him.
Marquinhos (Paris Saint-Germain): The talented defender has already expressed his desire to leave PSG for Barcelona. He will have to do well with his national team, we shall see.
Renato Augusto (Beijing Guoan): One of Corinthians’ best players emigrated to China las season. He showed that he was fit for the Olympics in a match against Uruguay, after executing a great skill move. Delightful.
Gabriel Barbosa (Santos): Read all about the promising striker here.
Gabriel Jesus (Manchester City): The now former Palmeiras player is said to be Pep Guardiola’s new Messi at Manchester City. It will be interesting to watch him during the upcoming month.
- My Prediction: 1st in the Group Stage. Possible champions.
- Group D (Honduras, Algeria, Portugal). Argentina’s chances of getting first place are not as good as Brazil’s. Nevertheless, I think that they will overcome its rivals even though any team could be a significant threat.
- Manager: Julio Olarticoechea (57)
- Players to watch:
Gerónimo Rulli (Real Sociedad): One of the most promising goalkeepers in Europe. The three posts are safe while this man is standing under them.
Santiago Ascacíbar (Estudiantes de La Plata): The defensive midfielder has done a great job while playing for Estudiantes. He has already been scouted by Spartak Moscow.
Cristian Pavón (Boca Juniors): Pavón has been the best companion for Carlos Tévez so far. His electric pace and his intelligent runs have earned him a new contract with a recession clause of 18 million Euros!
Ángel Correa (Atlético de Madrid): “Angelito” was signed by Atlético after he was decisive in San Lorenzo’s Copa Libertadores triumph back in 2014. Since then, he has not stopped improving. He will probably play as a second striker in Olarticoechea’s rather defensive formation.
Jonathan Calleri (São Paulo): While playing for Boca Juniors he scored an insane amount of goals, showing great skills and a wide range of resources when it comes to finishing. Impossible headers, rabonas, chipped balls, Calleri is a very special player and it looks like West Ham has already agreed a deal with him.
Víctor Cuesta (Independiente de Avellaneda): Cuesta was one of the few bright points in last year’s Independiente. The left-back is quick, clever and has great technical skill, which makes him look like a far more experienced player.
- My Prediction: 1st in the Group Stage. Possible semi-finalists.
- Group C (Germany, South Korea, Fiji). This group will be a proper test for the champions. Facing every type of play will be very beneficial for them since experience is crucial in these competitions where it is winning or going home. The Germans will try to dominate, the Koreans will most likely play counter attacking, intelligent football while the Fijians will try to use their strength and speed. The inclusion of three +23 players will surely provide plenty of experience both on and off the pitch.
- Manager: Raúl Gutiérrez (49)
- Players to watch:
Alfredo Talavera (Deportivo Toluca): Talavera has been the most regular Mexican goalkeeper for a long time, which is why he has earned the role of Mexico’s main goalkeeper ahead of Ochoa.
Jorge Torres Nilo (Tigres UANL): The left-back was one of the most disciplined full backs of the 2015 Copa Libertadores. His experience will be much needed.
Érick Torres (Houston Dynamo): The young striker is enjoying a great run of good performances in the MLS. The Olympics come in a great moment for him.
Oribe Peralta (Club América): This man could make the difference between success and failure for Mexico. Having such an important striker has proved to be vital.
Erick Aguirre (Pachuca): Aguirre is often amongst the most promising Mexican players considering the proximity of the 2018 World Cup in Russia. We will see what he can do at least once during the group stage, I hope.
- My Prediction: 2nd in the Groups Stage. Possible semi-finalists.
- Group C (Sweden, Japan, Nigeria). If Colombia wants to reach the knock out stages, they must win the first two matches. Gathering at least six points would guarantee them qualification, because you never want to speculate when your last rival is Obi Mikel’s Nigeria.
- Manager: Siasia Samson (48)
- Players to watch:
Teófilo Gutiérrez (Sporting Club): Teo might not be the best striker in the world, but he certainly knows how to turn an adverse result around using only his temperament and clinical finishing.
Miguel Borja (Atlético Nacional): Borja was sitting on the bench at Atlético Nacional, until he came on in the semi-finals of the Libertadores and scored four goals in two games against São Paulo. Then he went on and scored in the final again. I am really looking forward to seeing this striker in action.
Sebastián Pérez (Atlético Nacional): Another key part of the Libertadores champions’ clockwork team. His clean tackles and his fast distribution of the ball have made him a great asset for aggressive sides.
- My Prediciton: 1nd in the Group Stage. Quarter Finalists.
- Group D (Argentina, Argelia, Portugal). These will be Honduras’ third Olympics in a row, which makes them a regular presence, therefore they already know the tournament and they will have built a team based on the previous team’s merits and flaws.
- Manager: Jorge Luis Pinto (64)
- Players to watch:
Anthony Lozano (Tenerife): The striker has now said goodbye to the Spanish second tier club, for this means his style of play has attracted somebody. Depending on his skills, Honduras could use him as a very reliable reference both on the counter and also from set pieces.
- My Prediction: Group Stages.
Light the Torch – The Olympic Football Tournament is About to Begin
Now that you know the basic information about the American nation representatives at the Rio de Janeiro Olympic football tournament, we hope you will have a more pleasant experience watching every minute of it. As always, you can find even more information about this topic here. Let’s just hope for the bad news to end, so that we can enjoy an entertaining experience.
Nicolás Miremont is a born and raised Boca Juniors fan, but his heart has a special place for Manchester United, Zenit Saint Petersburg and Dynamo Kiev. Miremont loves to support the underdogs. Miremont enjoys watching smaller competitions especially those from Eastern Europe, but also his native Argentina. Follow him on Twitter @Miremont_Nico