The Men’s Olympic Soccer Tournament kicks off today and will, as usual, bring together an intriguing mix of world-class potential, unknown quantities and a few wily old veterans.
Squads may only consist of three players born on or after January 1, 1997, so some of the world’s top young talents will be featured. However, as the tournament collides with the start of the European league seasons, many star names have been made unavailable, giving others the chance to make a name for themselves.
Sixteen teams are divided into four groups, with the top two from each group advancing to the quarter-finals. The gold medal will be held in Yokohama on August 7, with Brazil being strong favorites to retain the title they won domestically in 2016. Argentina, France, Spain and Germany are all expected to compete, with Ivory Coast, Mexico and Japan all realistic medal hopes.
Sports post has picked 10 young players to watch out for in the tournament, as well as a few blasts from the past looking to finish their careers with an Olympic gold medal.
Neymar was the star of the show when Brazil won gold at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro
THIAGO ALMADA (ARGENTINI)
Described by many as the next top talent to come from a country that has produced so many. The Velez Sarsfield prodigy is a small attacking midfielder who is capable of playing as number 10 and, at 20 years old, is the youngest player in Argentina’s roster.
Velez Sarsfield’s attacking midfielder Thiago Almada is the next big thing in Argentina
URIEL ANTUNA (MEXICO)
Mexico is a great opportunity to win the tournament and the key to their hopes will be the form of 23-year-old winger Antuna. He scored eight in 21 for the senior team, so he knows his way to goal. Back in Mexico with Guadalajara who spent two years at Manchester City without playing for the first team.
Mexico striker Uriel Antuna is a fixture in the senior squad and key for the U23s too
EDUARDO CAMAVINGA (FRANCE)
He’s only 19 November, but the Rennes midfielder is already well known to football fans around the world thanks to the clubs looking to sign him – with Manchester United and Real Madrid front and center. Tipped to become one of the world’s best players.
Rennes midfielder Eduardo Camavinga is a target for both Manchester United and Real Madrid
MATHEUS CUNHA (BRAZIL)
Brazil takes this tournament seriously and their team is full of players who have been together for years building the Olympics. Their spearhead up front is 22-year-old Hertha Berlin striker Cunha, who has scored 16 goals in 18 games for the reserves. Wanted by Leeds, he previously played for RB Leipzig.
Hertha Berlin striker Matheus Cunha was prolific for Brazil’s pledges and is a target in Leeds
AMAD DIALLO (IVORY COAST)
Another one that needs little introduction to Manchester United fans, the winger who has just turned 19 has been cleared to miss the preseason to play for an exciting young Ivory Coast team. Blessed with plenty of skill and speed, he will be happy to show why United paid Atalanta up to £34million to sign him.
Amad Diallo has only made a handful of appearances for Manchester United since joining
BRYAN GIL (SPAIN)
Spain has named a strong squad, including several players who played at the European Championship and need no introduction, but 20-year-old Sevilla winger Gil is probably the best of the rest. An excellent season on loan at Eibar earned him his first senior caps this year. Left-footed and short in stature, he can operate on either flank and is poised to join Tottenham in a swap deal involving Erik Lamela.
Sevilla winger Bryan Gil impressed on loan for LaLiga lower middle class Eibar this season
BRUNO GUIMARAES (BRAZIL)
A second player of the Brazilian team, but there are really some to look forward to from their talented squad. The 23-year-old Guimaraes, an athletic and efficient defensive midfielder who usually heads the team, is on Arsenal’s radar after spending the past 18 months with Lyon.
Lyon midfielder Bruno Guimaraes is the permanent captain of the Brazilian Under 23 team
LEE KANG-IN (SOUTH KOREA)
The undisputed star of the South Korean side and the next big thing to come out of the country after Son Heung-min. Already a fixture in the senior squad, the 20-year-old attacking midfielder has established himself in the Valencia first team after joining the club’s academy at the age of 10.
Valencia forward Lee Kang-in (left) is the key man in South Korea’s Under-23 squad
TAKEFUSA KUBO (JAPAN)
Host Japan is pinning their hopes on the Real Madrid winger, who has grown accustomed to expectations despite just turning 20. Spent four years at Barcelona academy before returning home and breaking through with the FC Tokyo team at 15. in La Liga and a strong Olympics could open the door for him at Real, who he has yet to play for since they signed him in 2019.
Japanese youngster Takefusa Kubo has spent time at both Barcelona and Real Madrid
FELIX UDUOKHAI (GERMANY)
One look at the German roster and you’ll understand why their fans are concerned about a lack of talent coming through. Man City forward and Dortmund star Youssoufa Moukoko are not included, so they rely on many mid-table Bundesliga players in their early twenties, such as Augsburg centre-back, Uduokhai. The 23-year-old was previously called up for the senior selection.
Felix Uduokhai (center) was previously called up to the German senior squad squad
PS If you pick an older player, they might as well go over the limit. We can all look forward to seeing these two back in action for their country…
DANI ALVES (BRAZIL)
Alves is one of the best right-backs to ever play the game. He won everything with Barcelona at club level and will cherish their talented squad at the age of 38 – while looking for a gold medal for his bulging trophy cabinet.
Brazilian legend Dani Alves – who plays for Sao Paulo this month – is still doing well
ANDRE-PIERRE GIGNAC (FRANCE)
Remember him? Gignac earned 36 caps in France between 2009 and 2016, scoring seven goals but largely looking out of his depth in big games during a lean spell for Les Bleus. Now 35, he has spent the past six years hitting Mexico’s goals and heeding his country’s call for the Olympics.
Andre-Pierre Gignac (left) last appeared for France in their Euro 2016 final defeat to Portugal