By Laurent-Jude Boisrond-Canal
The distinctive feature of the Rio Olympic soccer tournament is that all of the 16 teams are composed of players, who are all under 23 years old. Every continent is represented. The teams qualify either by winning a tournament, by being in good standing, or be the host country.
Below is a breakdown of the continents represented.
Algeria Nigeria and South Africa will represent the Confederation of African Football (CAF) in this Olympics. Nigeria qualified by beating Algeria in a qualifying tournament, while South Africa punched its ticket to Rio by defeating Senegal in the third place match.
The three Asian Football Confederation representatives are Japan, winner of 2016 AFC U-23 Championship, South Korea, the finalist, and Iraq the third.
Four European teams will participate to the Olympic games: Denmark, Germany, Portugal and Sweden. The Scandanavians won the 2015 UEFA European U-21 Championship after they beat the Portuguese in penalty kicks in final 4-3. Denmark and Germany qualified as semifinalists.
Central, North America & Caribbean:
Mexico won that region’s tournament and Honduras emerged after being the finalist of the 2015 CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying Championship.
Fiji won the 2016 Pacific Games.
Argentina Brazil and Columbia will represent South America in Rio. Brazil is automatically qualified because it is the host of this Olympic Games. Argentina won the 2015 South America Youth Championship. Columbia defeated the United States in a 2016 CONCACAF-CONMEBOL Playoffs.
Famous players to keep an eye on:
Neymar Jr.: He is the best player of his generation. The Brazilian captain will have the chance to bring the first Olympic title to Brazil. Neymar was kept out of the Copa America tournament in June so he would be in top form for this Olympics. Brazil received a Silver medal at the London Olympic in 2012. The Brazilians are hoping for Gold on their home pitch.
Marcos Gomes de Araujo, better known as Marquinhos: Blocked by Thiago Silva and David Luiz in club, and national selection Marquinhos, wantS to impose himself. He started two of three games in Americas Cup and insisted to his coaches that he is to participate to Rio’s Olympics. The Paris Saint-Germain defender will be Brazil’s vice-captain.
Matthias Ginter: He will be the only world champion to participate at this Olympics even if he never played with Germany’s World Cup team. This time he can be the major player for a new coronation for the Germans.
Giovanni Lo Celso: The new Paris Saint-Germain recruit even if he will wearing his new color after the winter break will be one of the attractions. Unknown until now everyone want know why Paris invested so much on him. With this Olympics he will get the opportunity to show why the Frenh club pinned its hope on him.
John Obi Mikel: Captain in 2013 when Nigeria won the African Cup. He is logically named as the Super Eagles captain for Rio’s Olympics games. However he will be the only big Nigerian player to participate to this tournament because Dion Ighalo (Watford) and Kelechi Iheanacho (Manchester City) are not allowed by their clubs to play in this Olympics.