Before becoming a Sports Journalist for Free Super Tips, Aaron spent three years studying Sports Journalism at the University of Sunderland while taking in the Black Cats' 'glory years' under Martin O'Neill. Now back in Northern Ireland he turns niche stats into predictions for FST, while he's one of the few people on this island who is equally comfortable at Windsor Park and the Aviva.
Feeling that post-Euro 2020 low? With a month between the final and the return of the Premier League, we need something to fill the gap other than wild transfer rumours. Luckily, the Olympics do just that. Football is a big part of the 2020 games, with some of the world’s best young players competing for a medal.
I’m sure by now you’ve read our lowdown on how football at the Olympics works, but here we’re going team-by-team to see the contenders for gold, silver and bronze.
Star player: Florian Thauvin
One to watch: Timothee Pembele
France could have named the likes of Kylian Mbappe and Eduardo Camavinga for this tournament, but they’ve left many star names at home. Their three overage players – Thauvin, Andre-Pierre Gignac and Teji Savanier – show that this isn’t a vintage side. At 28, this is Thauvin’s moment to step up and be the main man on the international stage.
Of course, France have plenty of young talent coming through the ranks and the likes of Isaac Lihadji, Nathanael Mbkuku and Pierre Kalulu should make an impression. However, keep an eye out for PSG youngster Pembele, who should feature in defence.
Star player: Wataru Endo
One to watch: Takehiro Tomiyasu
The host nation enjoyed a strong showing at the 2018 World Cup in their run to the last 16, with Endo a key part of that. He’s been called up here as a result, featuring alongside former Southampton defender Maya Yoshida and Hiroki Sakai as the overage players in the squad.
Tottenham fans will want to keep a close eye on Tomiyasu, who is a star man for Bologna and the 22-year-old defender has been heavily linked with a move to Spurs.
Star player: Diego Lainez
One to watch: Guillermo Ochoa
Mexico have taken this tournament seriously, with a pair of 21-year-olds their youngest members of the squad. It is almost entirely domestic-based, bar Real Betis talent Lainez. He starred in a friendly win ahead of the tournament and expect the magic to come from him this summer.
Eternal goalkeeper Ochoa is one to keep an eye on, he’s among the three overage players at the ripe age of 36. After a long international career he’ll hope to guide Mexico to Olympic success.
Star player: Luther Singh
One to watch: Ronwen Williams
South Africa’s sole overage player is goalkeeper Williams, which makes the 29-year-old a standout already. This squad looks like it will struggle in a solid Group A lineup, especially as the side is a mix of domestic based young talents and European-based players who are yet to break through.
Singh is the closest to achieving that, having played for Chaves, Moreirense and Pacos de Ferreira in Portugal. The striker won the Golden Boot at the 2017 U-20 Africa Cup of Nations and featured for the side which finished third in 2019’s U-23 edition.
Star player: Jorge Benguche
One to watch: Douglas Martinez
Honduras have players who feature in Europe, the US and South America alongside a strong domestic contingent, with seven players from Olimpia included. Of those, Benguche is the most accomplished having broken into the Boavista side in Portugal.
Martinez isn’t far off having broken into the Real Salt Lake team in MLS, while he has two goals for the full national side. Expect to see him lead the line in Tokyo.
Star player: Chris Wood
One to watch: Ben Waine
English football mainstay Winston Reid is among those included in the New Zealand side, with the 33-year-old Brentford defender joining Burnley forward Wood as the overage members. Given his consistency in the top-flight for the Clarets, Wood will be the focus for New Zealand.
Keep an eye on Wellington Phoenix forward Waine, who has scored eight times in seven appearances for the U-23 team so far. Alongside Wood the OlyWhites could have a fierce attacking setup.
Star player: Alex Dobre
One to watch: Tudor Baluta
Romania’s hopes have been dealt a blow, with Dragos Nedelcu and George Puscas both pulling out of the squad. That leaves a team who look short on talent, with Dobre their standout after featuring 20 times in Ligue 1 last term.
One to keep an eye on is Baluta, who is signed to Brighton but has mostly been farmed out on loan. The Seagulls are trying to build up some young foreign talents at the moment and it will be interesting to see what kind of player they have on their hands in Baluta.
Star player: Lee Kang-in
One to watch: Hwang Ui-jo
The absence of Kim Min-jae is a worry for South Korea, with the centre-half seeing his club Beijing Guoan block his participation.
Just two overage players feature for South Korea as a result of Min-jae’s absence, with Ui-jo worth a look after his 12-goal haul in Ligue 1 last term. However, 20-year-old Valencia talent Kang-in is the clear star man. He’s going to get plenty of admiring glances this summer and expect everything South Korea do to go through him. With a talent that good and given the standard of opposition, South Korea will expect to get out of the group once again.
Star player: Nehuen Perez
One to watch: Thiago Almada
Gold medallists in 2004 and 2008, Argentina will be a threat this summer. They haven’t needed to go chasing overage players, with their only one 28-year-old goalkeeper Jeremias Ledesma.
Atletico Madrid defender Perez is a great talent at this level, while Brighton’s Alexis Mac Allister should impress on this stage. However, winger Almada is likely to catch the eye when he features.
Star player: Daniel Arzani
One to watch: Harry Souttar
Australia return to the Olympics for the first time since 2008, but they don’t have made standout names looking to guide them to success.
Arzani is the pick of the bunch, he’s on Man City’s books and he’s becoming a key man for Australia. He played at the 2018 World Cup aged 19. Injuries have stopped him progressing, but he’ll be a key part of this side. Stoke defender Souttar is another standout and he is likely to be the leader at the back this summer with stern tests ahead in this group.
Star player: Ahmed Hegazi
One to watch: Ramadan Sobhi
Egypt had Mo Salah’s call-up blocked by Liverpool, leaving them a mainly domestic-based squad this summer. However, the players are all mostly around 23 and 24, so they should have a good bit of experience. Given the quality they’ll face, expect them to need it.
Hegazi is a name you may remember from his spell at West Brom, while Sobhi turned out for Stoke and Huddersfield before returning to his homeland in 2018.
Star player: Pedri
One to watch: Marco Asensio
Spain look like one of the standout sides at this tournament, especially with many of their Euro 2020 semi-finalists present. That includes Young Player of the Tournament Pedri, with the Barcelona man one of the best players in Tokyo this summer.
Unai Simon, Pau Torres, Mikel Oyarzabal and Dani Olmo all featured at the Euros and they return here. However, we are focusing on experienced option Asensio. Once the next big thing for Spain, the Real Madrid man missed the Euros and he faces a make or break tournament as a key man for one of the favourites.
Star player: Richarlison
One to watch: Gabriel Martinelli
The winners of the 2016 edition look well placed to challenge again. Five years ago they won gold following an embarrassing tournament loss on home soil, this year they head to Tokyo following another tournament loss on home soil.
Bridging the gap between the Copa America runners-up and this squad is Richarlison. He’s among three Premier League stars in the squad, including highly-rated Arsenal star Martinelli. The squad also includes a 38-year-old full-back called Dani Alves, who has managed only one U-23 cap in that long career. Oh, and he’s won 43 trophies to date with the potential for another gong this summer.
Star player: Maximilian Arnold
One to watch: Nadiem Amiri
In a summer all about Euro ’96, there’s a real throwback with Germany led by Stefan Kuntz at this tournament. The Germans lost the 2016 final to Brazil and they meet again in the group stage, which should be quite the rematch.
The Germans have another talented side in tow and there’ve brought quality overage players, so they’re bound to contend for a medal once again.
Star player: Franck Kessie
One to watch: Amad Diallo
Brazil and Germany may be Group D favourites but this is no means a done deal. Ivory Coast have gone strong with their selection, landing AC Milan midfielder Kessie and Manchester United’s Eric Bailly.
He’s not the only Old Trafford talent to show up in Tokyo, as Diallo will get the chance to impress after his big money move from Atalanta. Expect Ivory Coast to push the 2016 finalists close.
Star player: Salman Al-Faraj
One to watch: Abdulrahman Ghareeb
The quality of Ivory Coast only goes to make Saudi Arabia’s chances that much harder. All 22 of their players are domestic based, but their run to the 2020 U-23 Asia Cup final will give them some hope of making an impression.
They’ll look to the steady head of Al-Faraj for leadership here, while Ghareeb continues his rise after making his debut for the full side in 2018.
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