Men’s football at the Rio Olympics
The opening ceremony for the 2016 Summer Olympic Games takes place on Friday in the host city of Rio de Janeiro, with the football tournament kicking off the day before.
Previous gold medalists include Lionel Messi, Sergio Aguero, Samuel Eto’o, Nwankwo Kanu and Pep Guardiola.
Sixteen countries, including hosts Brazil, will make up the four groups before the knockout stage commences. Teams may only field 3 players over the age of 23, with the rest of the squad required to be born on or before 1 January 1993. The competition will also serve as a trial for a fourth substitute in extra-time.
Only 10 English-based players will take part in the tournament, although there are a number of star names from the rest of Europe and abroad. West Ham’s Manuel Lanzini was originally selected for Argentina’s squad but withdrew from the tournament with a knee injury.
Serge Gnabry (Germany and Arsenal, 21)
The Arsenal winger endured a torrid loan spell at West Brom last season, making just 1 Premier League appearance. Although not expected to be a starter, Gnabry will be hoping to impress if given the chance. The 21-year-old has represented Germany at five age levels and has 7 caps for the under-21 side.
Takuma Asano (Japan and Arsenal, 21)
Takuma Asano signed for the Gunners earlier in the window from Japanese side Sanfrecce Hiroshima. The striker scored 14 league goals in his 60 appearances for the club before making the switch to North London. He has already picked up five caps for the Japanese senior side and scored his first international goal earlier this year in a 7-2 win over Bulgaria.
Mikel John Obi (Nigeria and Chelsea, 29)
If you thought we got his name wrong, you’re forgiven. Mikel John Obi, formerly known as John Obi Mikel officially changed his name on Wednesday. The defensive midfielder is one of Nigeria’s overage players and will captain the side in Brazil. His absence won’t be a big blow to Chelsea, however, thanks to new signing N’Golo Kante. The Super Eagles will be looking to add to their 2008 Silver medal and 1996 Gold.
Tiago Ilori (Portugal and Liverpool, 23)
The Liverpool centre-back was born in England but has represented Portugal at various age levels, making his under-21 debut earlier this year. A product of Sporting’s academy, Ilori is yet to make his Premier League debut for Liverpool, although he did feature three times in the Cup last season.
Joel Castro Pereira (Portugal and Manchester United, 20)
The 6ft2 goalkeeper had originally represented Switzerland at youth level before switching his allegiance to Portugal, who he has represented at under-20 level. Pereira was loaned out to Rochdale in 2015 where he made eight appearances.
Although not high up in the Old Trafford ranks, he could be favoured by compatriot Jose Mourinho. Interestingly, Arsenal’s official website listed 16-year-old goalkeeper Joao Virginia as a member of Portugal’s Olympic squad. It is unclear whether or not Virginia will indeed take part in Brazil.
Heung-min Son (South Korea and Tottenham Hotspur, 24)
The three-time KFA Player of the Year is one of Korea’s overage players at the tournament. Son’s favoured position is as a second striker although he can operate as a wide forward. The 24-year-old has scored 16 international goals in 48 appearances since making his national team debut in 2010. South Korea claimed Bronze at the 2012 London Olympics, but Son was not in the squad.
The Danish squad includes 3 Championship representatives; Fulham’s Vigen Christensen, Birmingham’s Nicolai Brock-Madsen and Brentford’s Lasse Vibe, while Nottingham Forest’s teenage goalkeeper Tim Erlandsson will represent Sweden, although he is likely to be second choice.
There are no English-based players in the Brazil squad, however that could soon change as Gabriel Jesus looks set to join Manchester City. The 19-year-old starlet currently plays for Palmeiras as a forward. The host nation’s squad also features a number of more familiar names, including Neymar, Marquinhos, Rafinha and Felipe Anderson.
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