As the football event of the Beijing Olympic games approach and the teams whittle down their squads in a bid for medals rather than trophies. Below is a group by group review of the participating 16 teams of the male version.
Group A – Argentina, Serbia, Ivory Coast and Australia.
This is sure the toughest group among all the four groups. Argentina is the clear favorite of this group, they won there first Olympic gold medal in 2004. They have in their Squad Boca Juniors' midfield Juan Riquelme, Liverpool midfielder Javier Mascherano and Inter Milan defender Nicolas Burdisso as the three over age player.
They also have Barcelona's petite player Lionel Messi in their fold. Messi who already amassed 29 senior caps for Argentina is one of the most deadly strikers in the world at the moment. Barcelona is fighting to keep Messi for upcoming Champions League qualifying matches, but it's undoubtedly he'll be prevented from playing in the Olympics.
They also have Sergio Aguero, who was hot in the Spanish La Liga last season. Sergio Aguero, 20, has made seven appearances for the senior team and should be alongside Messi at forward. Aguero led Atletico Madrid with 19 goals in Spain's La Liga last season.
Argentina is the favorite in Group A, which includes Australia, Ivory Coast and Serbia. Australia, which won the bronze in 1992, is the only other team in the group that has ever won an Olympic Football Event medal.
Argentina should expect tough competition from both Ivory coast and Serbia. Ironically both Ivory and Serbia were in Argentina's group during the 2006 FIFA World Cup in Germany. Both teams should not be under rated as they also have decent players in their fold. The Ivorians will be parading the likes of Salomon Kalou and potentially Didier Drogba and Kolo Toure as the 3 over age players.
Serbia who had a successful under21 Euro cup campaign where they finished second will be parading Branislav Ivanovic who also play for Chelsea in the English Premiership and Velancia's Zigic.
Australia should expect to end the grow with no points as they parade a team which lacks experience at this level, no Tim Cahill, no Mark Viduka or Harry Kewell it would have surprised if they managed to grab anything more than a point.
Prediction: Argentina to finish top of the group while Serbia and Ivory Coast will have to battle it out for the second quarter final ticket.
Group B – Netherlands, Nigeria, Japan and USA.
Every team in Group B has earned a medal at the Olympic Games. Although Nigeria has only won in 1996, it remains a good team. Japan won bronze in 1968 and the Netherlands won three straight bronze medals in 1908, 1912 and 1920.
The Netherlands team is the clear favorite to win this group. Following a European Championship where they wereaped with praise for their attractive attacking football the spirits of the Netherlands team should be high, despite a completely new look to the squad. They will be parading veteran striker Roy Makaay, Gerald Sibon and Kew Jailens, all of whom should help to mold a well balanced and technically brilliant team. It should be noted that The Dutch are the back to back European Under21 champions, some of the under21s will be on parade in the Olympics in China.
Nigeria, Japan and the USA will have to fight it out for the second Quarter Final ticket or be ready to head back to their respective countries. The Nigerians have a slight advantage due to the fact that many of their national team also play in the Under23s too, adding vital experience to a squad which is devoid of many of the big names associated with Nigeria in the past. Striking sensations Ikechukwu Uche and Osase and Goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama will be the three over age players in the team.
Brian McBride, Brad Guzan and Michael Parkhurst will represent The USA as their overage players. Japan may struggle to get out of the group, without coach Yasuharu Sorimachi can ensure that they are qualified enough to take points from the two weaker teams around them. Their key match could well be against the USA, a team lacking any real superstars who have been criticized in the past for their poor development at youth level. They should be keen to prove the critics wrong, but may struggle to do so.
Prediction: Netherlands And Nigeria to go through from the Group.
Group C – China, New Zealand, Brazil and Belgium.
Although China is expected to top the medal haul for the Olympics if managing to get out of group c will be a massive surprise to everyone including themselves. China will although be expected to get a win from New Zealand who will be participating in the Olympics for the very first time but they should not expect much from Brazil and Belgium. The Belgians who are well known for their strong youth system will be parading very rated Vincent Kompany, Anthony Vanden Borre and Tom de Mul.
Brazil is the clear favorite to top the group. They have surprisingly invited to their squad AC Milan bound Ronaldinho, since the fact he has not exactly been fully fit as of late. Robinho, Thiago Neves, Diego and Pato are also included in the team but coach Dunga's major worry will be the attack line none of what were in great form for their respective clubs in the just concluded season. They will be banking on the midfield to deliver them the goals that will win them the ever elusive Olympic gold medal.
Prediction: Brazil to win the group while Belgium are the favorites to come second.
Group D – Italy, South Korea, Honduras and Cameroon.
Italy highlights Group D, but the four-time World Cup winners do not feature as much talent as Brazil and Argentina and have not won the gold medal since 1936. American-born striker Giuseppe Rossi is among the players to watch after scoring 11 goals for Villarreal last season.
Cameroon, which is trying to get Barcelona striker Samuel Eto'o for the Games, is awaiting to repeat its gold medal success from 2000. Eto'o was part of that team, which defeated Brazil in overtime in the quarterfinals, Chile in the semifinals and Spain in the final.
Honduras, the other representative from CONCACAF along with the United States, is the other team in Group D.
The top two teams from each group advance to the quarterfinals. The men's event starts Aug. 7 and concludes with the final on Aug. 23.
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