Rio 2016 Football Tournament – Group A Preview
The Men’s Football at the Olympics is a 16 team competition with four groups, never establishing itself as a headline event, the competition differs from the World Cup and the continental competitions by limiting each nation to only three ‘over-aged players’ who are over the age of 23. This has meant that mainstream media in certain areas view it as a glorified youth competition, but with the Olympic venue being Rio, a city steeped in footballing culture, the tournament may have a greater impetus than usual. RealSport will be previewing both the men’s and women’s events in the coming days, we begin with Group A of the Men’s.
Brazil perhaps have the biggest cause to win gold in this competition. Melting pot of factors contribute to this: the fact that this competition is the only one that Brazil haven’t won, along with the demand for redemption from the national side after their 7-1 defeat the World Cup they hosted two years ago and finally the fact that the nation breathes for football.
To shoulder this burden, manager Rogerio Micale, who is has managed five different youth teams in Brazil since 1999 and is the current U20 manager, has relied heavily on young Brazilians that haven’t yet made the dream leap to European football whilst also enlisting recognisable names such as Marquinhos of PSG, Rafinha of Barcelona and Felipe Anderson of Lazio into the team. The crown jewel and one of the over-aged players is Neymar, who had his World Cup end in heartbreak after injury. Brazil will be demanding a win in this tournament, and with the opposition against them, it is likely that they will top their group and go far in the tournament.
Denmark are being led by Niels Frederiksen, who is currently in charge of the U21 side and has stepped in to lead the U23’s to the tournament. The squad is predominantly full of players from Danish teams with only seven players being from outside Denmark, including midfielders Uffe Bech and Christensen from Hannover and Fulham respectively. Denmark made the U21 UEFA European Championships semi-final, losing to eventual winners Sweden, and will be hoping to build on that when they kick off in Brazil.
Iraq are bringing a squad that few would recognise, with the biggest name perhaps being Udinese defender Ali Adnan, who has scored five goals in ten games, and the uncapped Sherko Karim from Swiss team Grasshopper who will be hoping to make a big impact. The manager is Abdul Ghani Shahad, who is the caretaker manager for Iraq alongside the U23 team. Between both teams he’s played 11, won nine and only lost one, however, but the competition in this group is a higher standard to the Asian states he would have played against, and I can see them falling at the first hurdle in these games.
South Africa will be hoping that Tyroane Sandows will be able to use his experience at Grêmio to pull of some results needed to escape the group stages. South Africa have brought along a relatively inexperienced squad, with all players likely to look towards Itumeleng Khune, the FM bargain goalkeeper. South African manager Owen Da Gama has been in charge of the U23 squad since 2014 and will hope to upset Denmark or Iraq to take second place.
- South Africa