The Olympics are just around the corner, and with that comes a slew of new stars. These men’s U23 players have already made their mark on the world stage, but they’re not stopping there. Here are some of the biggest names to watch out for in London this summer.
The is soccer in the olympics is a question that has been asked for some time. It seems like this year, there are many men’s U23 Olympic stars to watch including Reinier, Amad Diallo and Marc Cucurella.
The Olympic men’s soccer competition begins on Wednesday in Japan, and there will be plenty of elite young players on display until the gold medal final on August 7.
Traditionally, only players under the age of 23 are allowed to compete in the men’s Olympic competition, with the exception of three “overage” players. Because to the COVID-19 epidemic, teams have grown from 18 to 22 players this year, although the U23 regulation remains in place, and the majority of players must have been born on or after January 1, 1997 to qualify.
Lionel Messi of Argentina (2008), Raul Jimenez of Mexico (2012), and Neymar of Brazil (2016) have all won gold medals in the past, but the epidemic has restricted the amount of elite players that teams are prepared to let go this summer. There will be no spectators.
Because the Olympic event is not on the official FIFA calendar, domestic teams in Europe are not required to release their players. Pedri, Eric Garcia, Dani Olmo, Unai Simon, Mikel Oyarzabal, and Pau Torres are among the six members of Spain’s Euro 2020 team, which may explain the quality of their squad.
Spain and Brazil, the reigning champions, are the favorites to win the gold medal in Yokohama, but who are the young talents to watch this summer?
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Nathanael Mbuku (FRANCE) (19, winger, Reims)
Several notable young players were initially included in the team, including Rennes midfielder Eduardo Camavinga, Arsenal’s William Saliba, and Nice’s Amine Gouiri, before being withdrawn at their clubs’ request. Mbuku is one of the most intriguing additions to a mixed bag of players that mostly consists of untested youngsters from big clubs and those who failed to make the European Under-21 Championship team. The Reims winger had a mini-breakthrough last season, being direct, quick, and unpredictable. He will be scouted by all of France’s major teams now that he has begun to produce an end product.
Teji Savanier (29, Montpellier midfielder), Andre-Pierre Gignac (35, Tigres UANL striker), Florian Thauvin (29, Montpellier defender) (28, attacking midfielder, Tigres UANL).
Takefusa Kubo, Takefusa Kubo, Takefusa Kubo, Takefusa Ku (20, attacking midfielder, Real Madrid)
The host nation has put together a strong team that includes seasoned European professionals as well as some of the country’s best players. Kubo, who has long been regarded as Japan’s next big thing, is anticipated to pull off the feats of wizardry. Last season, the multi-functional attacking midfielder had two loan stints away from Real Madrid, first with Villarreal and then with Getafe, and will undoubtedly have benefited from the experience.
Hiroki Sakai (right-back, Urawa Red Diamonds), Maya Yoshida (centre-back, Sampdoria), Wataru Endo (right-back, Sampdoria), Hiroki Sakai (right-back, Urawa Red Diamonds), Hiroki Sakai (right-back, Urawa Red Diamonds), Hiroki Sakai (right-back, Urawa Red Diamonds (28, midfielder, Stuttgart).
Roberto Alvarado (Mexico) (22, attacking midfielder, Cruz Azul)
Despite not being as important as anticipated for Cruz Azul this season, the offensive midfielder is one of the key players in Mexico’s squad, along with Alexis Vega, who was the best forward in the qualifying competition. Alvarado, who has already received 20 senior caps, has a strong left foot and likes cutting in from the right side with fast dribbles and changes of speed. Diego Lainez of Real Betis will also be a player to watch, as will quirky goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa, who was a member of the 2004 Olympic team and has played in four World Cups.
Overage players: Guillermo Ochoa (38, America goalie), Luis Romo (26, Cruz Azul midfielder), Henry Martin (28, striker, America).
Luther Singh, SOUTH AFRICA (23, winger, Braga)
Singh is one of the few players in a weakened South Africa side who has played first-team football at a good European level in the last year. Singh, who went to Sweden at the age of 18 to join GAIS, is mainly a deceptive, quick winger capable of scoring from long range, either on the conclusion of daring runs or from set pieces. Khanya Leshabela of Leicester City and Percy Tau of Brighton were not included in the final roster, while goalkeeper Ronwen Williams is the only player above the age of 18.
Ronwen Williams, Ronwen Williams, Ronwen Williams, Ronwen Williams, Ronwen Williams (29, goalkeeper, SuperSport United)
Alex Guity (HONDURAS) (23, goalkeeper, Olimpia)
Honduras will almost certainly need one of the qualifying tournament’s heroes to replicate his spectacular shot-stopping in Japan if they are to have a chance. The goalie, like most of his colleagues, is based in Honduras, but he is still vying for the No. 1 shirt at Olimpia, the country’s largest club. Guity was one of the reasons why the nation earned the second qualifying place, thanks to his daring goalkeeping style, cat-like reflexes, and agility (by beating the United States). Keep an eye on attacker Douglas Martinez, who plays for Real Salt Lake in Major League Soccer.
Overage players: Olimpia striker Jorge Benguche (25), Brayan Moya (25, Olimpia) (27, attacking midfielder, Primeiro de Agosto)
Song Min-Kyu (South Korea) (21, winger, Pohang Steelers)
While Valencia striker Lee Kang-On is the most well-known player in this South Korean team, Song has been unnoticed since he still plays club football in his native country. The 21-year-old was just given his first full cap for his nation after starring on the left flank for Pohang Steelers. Song, a hardworking and combative winger who is a decent crosser despite his weaker left foot, loves taking on defenders and, despite his 5-foot-10 height, has a penchant for scoring from headers.
Overage players: Kim Min-Jae (24, Beijing Guoan centre-back), Hwang Ui-Jo (28, Bordeaux striker), Kwon Chang-Hoon (27, attacking midfielder, Suwon Bluewings)
Ben Waine, Ben Waine, Ben Waine, Ben Waine, Ben Waine, Ben Waine, Ben (20, striker, Wellington Phoenix)
Waine has established himself as one of the top prospects in the A-League this season. He scored seven goals for the Phoenix last season and is on the brink of becoming a regular starter in the starting lineup. Waine, a fast thinker and opportunist who excels at predicting where the ball will land, recently turned down offers from European teams in favor of remaining in Wellington. Sarpreet Singh of Bayern Munich was left out of the team, although New Zealand’s over-age players have Premier League experience.
Winston Reid (33, Brentford centre-back), Chris Wood are two over-age players (28, forward, Burnley)
Andrei Ciobanu (ROMANIA) (23, attacking midfielder, Farul Constanta)
The technically talented attacking midfielder is probably the most intriguing member of a Romanian squad that has been denied access to important players such as Rangers’ Ianis Hagi. Despite this, Ciobanu made an impression with a well struck free kick against the Netherlands at the European Under-21 Championship group stage in March. Ciobanu is a crowd-pleasing midfielder in the Romanian division, with his flicks, backheels, and inventive problem-solving.
Florin Stefan, Florin Stefan, Florin Stefan, Florin Stefan, Florin Stefan, Florin Stefan, Florin Stefan (25, left-back, no club)
Thiago Almada (ARGENTINA) (20, Forward, Velez Sarsfield)
Argentina may not have the same level of talent as the team that won gold in 2008 (Messi, Angel Di Maria, and Sergio Aguero, to name a few), but Almada is the best player in a squad that has been hampered by ongoing South American competitions and European clubs’ reluctance to release players at such a crucial stage of preseason. Lucas Alario of Bayer Leverkusen was removed from the team, and Ezequiel Barco of Atlanta United could also shine, but Almada has been associated with some of the best clubs in the world since breaking through as a 17-year-old. He’s still at Velez Sarsfield, and he made the worst kind of headlines when he was accused of sexual assault and suspended by his club in February, but he was reinstated a week later when fresh evidence surfaced.
Jeremias Ledesma is an over-age player (28, goalkeeper, Cadiz)
Conor Metcalfe (Australia) (21, midfielder, Melbourne City)
With Melbourne City, the left-footed center midfielder is one of four recently crowned A-League winners and a rising star on the Australian football landscape. Metcalfe, who began his career as a defensive midfielder who liked to sit in front of the defense as a link player to midfield, has progressively unlocked his offensive ability as well. He’s developing into a true “No. 8,” often making long runs behind the opposition defensive line or scoring off late rushes into the box. He was recently capped by the senior Socceroos as an energetic, upbeat player with a first-class work rate.
Mitchell Duke, Mitchell Duke, Mitchell Duke, Mitchell Duke, Mitchell Duke, Mitchell Duke, Mitchell Duke (30, striker, Western Sydney Wanderers)
Ahmed Fotouh (EGYPT) (23, left-back, Zamalek)
In a league that isn’t known for nurturing young players, the left-back has established himself as first choice at 12-time winners Zamalek during the last six months. Fotouh’s approach strikes a delicate mix between offense and defense. Though his forays into the final third may leave him vulnerable defensively, the 23-year-old is quick to recover, a good crosser, and can utilize his weaker right foot to get him out of trouble when an opponent cuts inside.
Mohamed El Shenawy (32, Al Ahly goalie), Ahmed Hegazi (32, Al Ahly midfielder) are among the over-age players (30, centre-back, Al-Ittihad)
Marc Cucurella, SPAIN (22, midfielder, Getafe)
Spain is determined to win their first gold medal since the 1992 Summer Olympics in their home country. Luis de la Fuente’s team includes outstanding Euro 2020 performances Torres, Olmo, Pedri, Garcia, and Oyarzabal, as well as excellent over-age players. Cucurella is one of a group of up-and-coming players on the brink of breaking through to the next level, while being overshadowed by the outstanding first line of stars. He mostly plays as a left midfielder, although he can also play as a left defender. He is much more at ease higher up the pitch. Cucurella is especially dangerous when he drops into central areas around the box, as he is full of ideas, confident in his passing, and a strong crosser of the ball.
Overage players: Dani Ceballos (24, Real Madrid midfielder), Mikel Merino (25, Real Sociedad midfielder), Marco Asensio (25, forward, Real Madrid).
Reiner Reiner Reiner Reiner Reiner Reiner Reiner Reiner Reiner Reiner Rein (19, attacking midfielder, Real Madrid on loan at Borussia Dortmund)
With the exception of Spain, the defending champions are probably the favorites to retain their championship. Richarlison (Everton), Gabriel Martinelli (Arsenal), and Douglas Luiz (Aston Villa) lead a formidable force that includes Bruno Guimaraes (Lyon), Paulinho (Bayer Leverkusen), Antony (Ajax), Matheus Cunha (Hertha Berlin), and two well-known over-age heavyweights in Dani Alves and Diego Carlos. Reinier may find his opportunity to flourish within the context of such a great squad. Last season, the outstanding Brazilian played a small part on loan at Dortmund from Real Madrid, but he has another year to establish himself, and there are few more naturally gifted offensive midfielders in Europe.
Diego Carlos (28, Sevilla centre-back), Dani Alves (38, Sao Paulo right-back), Santos are among the over-age players (31, goalkeeper, Athletico Paranaense)
Amad Diallo, Amad Diallo, Amad Diallo, Amad Diallo, Amad Diallo (19, winger, Manchester United)
Diallo is by no means a household name, but he is still a mystery. In January 2021, the 19-year-old joined Manchester United from Atalanta for a price that may exceed €41 million. There are a lot of expectations on his shoulders, but he’s only made eight appearances for his new team so far. Diallo’s ability to become a first-team regular at Old Trafford is still up for discussion among scouts and insiders, but a run of games at the Olympics should provide additional information. Eric Bailly, a United colleague, will provide some experience, while Franck Kessie is a valuable addition to the group.
Eric Bailly (27, Manchester United centre-back), Franck Kessie (24, AC Milan midfielder), and Max Gradel are among the over-age players (33, striker, Sivasspor)
Ismail Jakobs, Ismail Jakobs, Ismail Jakobs, Ismail Jako (21, midfielder, AS Monaco)
Germany won the European Under-21 Championship last month, but with players like Lukas Nmecha, Florian Wirtz, and Karim Adeyemi remaining at home, the team will be disappointing in Japan. Ismail Jakobs, a winger, is an intriguing addition. Jakobs is a lively left-sided midfielder who has just joined Monaco from Cologne. His skilled left foot and vision make him a good combination player, both in terms of creating space for teammates and finding beneficial positions in the penalty area. Unfortunately, news of Germany’s players storming off the field during a warm-up game against Honduras when defender Jordan Torunarigha was reportedly racially insulted has overshadowed the country’s Olympic preparations.
Nadiem Amiri (24, offensive midfielder, Bayer Leverkusen), Maximilian Arnold (27, midfielder, Wolfsburg), and Max Kruse are among the over-age players (33, forward, Union Berlin)
Ayman Yahya, Ayman Yahya, Ayman Yahya, Ayman Yahya, Ayman Yah (20, attacking midfielder, Al-Nasr)
The offensive midfielder is poised to become a major player for Al-Nasr, one of Saudi Arabia’s best teams. Yahya has mostly been utilized as an impact replacement in the league and AFC Champions League, despite not being a regular. He can be entertaining to watch because of his low center of gravity, fast feet, and ability to create opportunities in the final third, particularly with smart passes behind the defense when he cuts in from wide areas.
Yasser Al-Shahrani (29, Al-Hilal full-back), Salem Al-Dawsari (29, Al-Hilal winger), and Salman Al-Faraj are among the over-age players (31, midfielder, Al-Hilal).
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