The Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games don’t officially start until Friday but the men’s football tournament always kicks off before the start in order to have enough time to cram it all in. That means on Thursday the race for the gold medal will get underway.
Brazil used home advantage to full effect five years ago and they have qualified for the tournament to attempt to make a successful defence of their title. This looks a pretty strong event this year though so they’ll need to play well to get those gold medals around their neck.
Recent Gold Medallists
2016 – Brazil
2012 – Mexico
2008 – Argentina
2004 – Argentina
2000 – Cameroon
1996 – Nigeria
Each nation has named a squad of 18 players for the tournament. The tournament is for played aged 23 and under although each squad is allowed to name up to three players over that age.
Although the tournament is restricted to players under-23 with the exception of three overaged players there are still some stars competing at this Olympics. Spain are full of stars with recent Euro 2020 semi-finalists Pau Torres, Eric Garcia, Pedri and Dani Olmo all in their squad while Ezequiel Barco could shine for Argentina. Premier League stars Richarlison, Dani Ceballos, Douglas Luiz, Chris Wood and Amad Diallo are all going to be involved as will world star Dani Alves. The quality looks to be high.
16 teams have made it into the tournament through various means of qualification and they have now been put into four groups of four. Each side plays the other three in its group once with the top two at the end of that going into the quarter finals. The tournament becomes a straight knockout from there. If knockout matches finish level then extra time and penalties will be played to determine the winner. The gold medal match will be played out in Yokohama on August 7.
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Group A looks very strong this year with France the headline attraction in it. They qualified for the first time since Atlanta in 1996 and have the chance to showcase their talents to the world. The home nation Japan would have been very popular with the crowds were they around for this Olympics but given that they are not you’d have to think home advantage might be tempered a little bit. Mexico were the gold medallists in London in 2012 and they are in this group looking to win the tournament again while South Africa complete the quartet in this group.
Group B looks a very open section of the draw with four sides who will probably all think they can qualify for the knockout stages. South Korea always have to be respected in this as if they win a medal their players are excused national service which can be pretty big. Romania did really well in the European Championship a couple of years ago to qualify from here but they have been hit with clubs not releasing their best players. New Zealand don’t have that problem. Chris Wood will spearhead their attack while Honduras took Mexico to penalties in the final of qualifying so they will aim to be competitive.
Spain are the favourites for the gold medal and if they are going to justify that they are going to need to come out of a very competitive Group C. They are in with an Argentina side who will be looking to win the tournament for a third time while Egypt are here on merit, although they were rebuked in their quest to get Mo Salah available for the games. Australia make up the section and they are another side who shouldn’t be underestimated at this level.
The defending champions Brazil have been placed in Group D for their title defence which means they are going to have to do it the hard way if they are to get the coveted gold medals around their necks. They are in the same group as the team who they beat to win the gold medals in Rio in 2016 in the form of Germany who will be out for a bit of revenge. Ivory Coast have got some talented players in their squad and while Saudi Arabia look a little out of their depth, they have nothing to lose in a high profile section of the draw.
This should be a great tournament, one of the best Olympic tournaments we’ve seen even allowing for the likes of Mo Salah not being released for the event. We have half a dozen of the most powerful nations in the game here in the form of France, Germany, Brazil, Argentina, Spain and at this level Mexico and some teams who have invested plenty of effort into their Olympic programme to raise their profile.
When you look at the draw there is a very strong half and a not so strong half and so outright bets should be placed in the weaker top half. The bottom half of the draw could well see quarter finals containing Spain, Argentina, Brazil and Germany. That isn’t the case in the other half of the draw and actually whoever comes out of Group A might have a comfortable quarter final when you consider South Korea are the strongest side in it. That makes me think the 33/1 on Mexico to win this competition is a big price. The interesting thing is the toughest side in their group is France and two of their overaged players play in Mexico so they’ll be known to this Mexican outfit. With a favourable group draw, a talented squad and the easier options in the quarter final that 33/1 looks well worth a punt.
Back Mexico to win Gold Medal (e/w) for a 1/10 stake at 34.00 with William Hill (1/2 1-2)
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