The Olympic football tournament is always a bit of an enigma, with nations only permitted three players over the age of 23 in their squad. It’s a mixed bag this year, with Argentina, Brazil and Germany going up against the likes of Fiji and Iraq. RealSport points out the names you will recognise going for gold this summer.
Correa has struggled for game time at Atletico Madrid, with Antoine Griezmann and Fernando Torres being Diego Simeone’s strike pairing of choice. The 21-year-old joined Atletico back in May 2014, but just a month later discovered a heart tumour, which ruled him out for over a year. He has since gone on to score five goals in 26 league appearances for Atletico, as well as picking up three international caps for Argentina, scoring on debut against Bolivia.
A name you will feel you recognise, and that’s because Giovanni is the son former Argentina international and current Atletico Madrid manager Diego Simeone. His son is a striker and has an exceptional record at youth level. The 21-year-old has ten goals in 12 games for Argentina U20s, and similar performances in Rio could turn heads in Europe for the River Plate man.
Felipe Anderson is slowly emerging as one of Europe’s top talents after being linked with Chelsea and Manchester United in recent transfer windows. At the age of 23, the Lazio man is entering a crucial phase of his career, and a big Olympics could help him force through a move. With the lack of quality opposition this summer, expect the winger to be up there in the assists chart.
A week ago very few would’ve known who Gabriel Jesus was, but this past week Manchester City signed the 19-year-old for £27 million. 19 goals in 30 appearances this season, including ten in 13 in the league, shows his pedigree and Man City fans will be eager to see him play this summer, before he joins in January.
At Paris Saint-Germain, the centre-back pairing of David Luiz and Thiago Silva get much of the plaudits, but right-back Marquinhos has been superb over the past 18 months. He has been linked with moves to Arsenal and Barcelona this summer, and could emerge as one of the best defenders in the world over the next decade. Expect the 22-year-old to play at centre half this summer to solidify the Brazilian defence.
The superstar. Barcelona gave Neymar the choice of playing in the Copa America or the Olympics this summer, and given Brazil’s poor performance in The States, it looks like the forward made the right choice. He follows the likes of Socrates, Zico, Rivaldo, Ronaldo and Ronaldinho in being the nation’s star man, and he will give his all for the host nation, having his home World Cup cut short two years ago through injury.
Rafinha is the younger sibling of Bayern Munich’s Thiago, but he will be looking to make his own name in Rio. As an attacking midfielder he has struggled for appearances at Barcelona, and an ACL tear ruled him out for six months last season. With competition for places in the attacking areas for the Brazil Olympic side, he may be set for more time on the sidelines.
Followers of German football will recognise Renato Augusto from his time at Bayer Leverkusen, but the he now plays for Beijing Guoan in the Chinese Super League. At the age of 28, he is one of Brazil’s over 23 players and still has plenty to offer. He will operate in the centre of midfield, starting attacks and looking to play-in all of Brazil’s attacking talents.
Unless you follow the Australian A-League, you will have no idea who Roy Krishna is. He plays for New Zealand based side Wellington Phoenix, and is the only player in the Fiji squad who plays outside of their homeland. 19 goals in 27 games for his country shows he has talent, and if Fiji manage to get a name on the score sheet this summer against Germany, Mexico or South Korea, expect it to be Krishna.
Lars Bener missed Germany’s World Cup win in Brazil two years ago through injury, and he will look to rectify that in Rio. He was a regular starter for his country going into that tournament and with over 300 career appearances he has bags of experience. He will play alongside his twin Sven in midfield providing a solid platform for the Germans.
Sven hasn’t had the same impact at international level like his brother, with just the seven German caps to his name, and yet to feature for Die Mannschaft since 2013. But the 27-year-old has made an impression at club Borussia Dortmund, with over 200 games for BvB, being selected over Nuri Sahin and Gonzalo Castro.
The 20-year-old Brandt has played for every German age group side from U15 to full international, and an appearance at the Olympics this summer will complete the set. Earlier this season, the winger scored in six consecutive Bundesliga matches for Bayer Leverkusen, becoming the youngest player to do so since Gerd Muller. With electrifying pace and a clear eye for goal, this could just be Brandt’s tournament.
Borussia Dortmund man Ginter will be Germany’s defensive anchor out in Brazil. He too is another player to have turned out for the full international side, and although he finds appearances hard to come by at Dortmund, he has barrels of talent. With Mats Hummels leaving for Bayern Munich earlier in the transfer window, a solid Olympics for the 22-year-old could help him secure a starting spot for his club.
Arsenal winger Serge Gnabry at one stage looked like he was about to break into the first team, but a loan spell at West Brom last season, where he only made three appearances, means he could face an exit from the Emirates in this transfer window. Fortunately for him he has a chance to prove himself at the Olympics, and with the squads only having 18 players he will get his opportunity.
At 23, Horn will be one of a few German goalkeepers who will stake a claim for the German number one jersey once Manuel Neuer retires. He has also played for Germany at every age group from U15s, but a full international cap still eludes him. 140 appearances for FC Koln at his age is incredibly impressive, and he is perhaps the best goalkeeper at the Olympic tournament.
The fact that Meyer wears the number seven jersey at Schalke illustrates his talent. He is yet another player to work his way up through the German age group sides, and he in fact skipped the U18 team. Meyer made his Germany debut back in 2014, but has since failed to represent the national side again. The 20-year-old attacking midfielder just needs to add more goals to his game, with six in 41 last season not quite matching his potential.
Arsenal fans will be familiar with Japanese striker Asano, after he became their second signing of the summer behind Granit Xhaka. 23 goals in 86 appearances in Japan doesn’t exactly scream goals, and he only has five international caps to his name. He will look to prove himself out in Brazil, and try and improve on Arsenal’s recent Asian flops – Ryo Miyaichi and Park Chu-Young.
Peralta may not be familiar with those in Europe, but he has been one of the most destructive strikers in Mexico. He has bagged over 200 goals in his career, and most importantly has played in the Olympic tournament before, four years ago in London. He scored four goals en route to Mexico winning the gold medal, defeating Brazil in the final.
John Obi Mikel
John Obi Mikel was one of very few shining lights at Chelsea last season, and if it hadn’t been such a poor season for the club he may have been shown the door this summer. He is Nigeria’s only recognisable name this summer, and with him in the centre of the pitch, opposition attackers will struggle to get through to the box. Still only 29, he has plenty of life left in him.
Liverpool centre-back Tiago Ilori has been a disappointment since joining the Anfield club from Sporting back in 2013, and is yet to make a league appearance. He went on loan to Premier League strugglers Aston Villa last season, and once again failed to get on the pitch. The Olympics will provide an opportunity for the 23-year-old to show any potential buyers his ability.
Spurs attacker Heung-min Son was incredibly successful in Germany with Schalke and Bayer Leverkusen, but after a great start at White Hart Lane, he was out of favour by the end of the season. It wouldn’t be a huge surprise if the South Korea star moved back to Germany before the end of the window, but he has heaps of ability which will hopefully be on show out in Brazil.