Olympic Football Dream Team
Posted on July 10, 2012 by Joe Plewes
With the dust finally settled on Euro 2012; many will be left to focus their attention on the Olympics to get their football fix, especially with the Premier League not scheduled to kick off until the 18th of August. If, like me, the Olympic football feast doesn’t quite tickle your fancy in the same way as a major international tournament then fear not.
I’m here to whet your appetite with a smattering of exciting footballing starlets that are pencilled in to strut their stuff at Wembley, Old Trafford, The Millennium Stadium, Hampden Park and well… the Ricoh Arena. Or the City of Coventry Stadium if you’re an Olympic organiser.
Now those pesky age restrictions do somewhat rob us of the big names, but don’t let that put you off a tournament that might well showcase the players set to grace the World Cup in 2014. In some respects, for Brazil it’s a bit of a dry run for that tournament.
Indeed, a selection of scintillating young samba stars will be turning out in Cardiff on July 26th, all ready and primed to do the same at the rather more glamorous New Corinthians Stadium on the 12th June, 2014. So without further ado, here are eleven players gunning for gold:
Goalkeeper: Diego Benaglio
I’m still backing the admittedly improved David De Gea to flap around nervously or drop a cross on someone’s head, so the number 1 jersey goes to experienced stopper Diego Benaglio of Switzerland. Having won the Bundesliga with Wolfsburg in 2009, he’s no stranger to medals and will hope to impress in a Swiss team with no other proper, established full internationals.
Right-back: Micah Richards
Cruelly overlooked by Roy Hodgson or a player who idiotically rejected his country’s call (delete as appropriate), City right-back Micah Richards fought off the not inconsiderable presence of David Beckham to get the nod in Stuart Pearce’s Olympic squad. While the aforementioned goldenballs will be swanning around as ‘more than an ambassador’ (essentially an ambassador) rather than doing his talking on the pitch, expect Micah to keep a few left wingers fairly honest later this month.
Centre-back: Javi Martinez
Not ostensibly a centre-back but rather good at it anyway, Athletic Bilbao’s Javi Martinez will surely play rather a lot for the Spanish national side in the future. He got a little bit of action against the Irish in Gdansk, but will surely be getting a whole lot more for his country in Britain. Oh, and if you didn’t already like him, he may have called Cristiano Ronaldo some nasty things after a La Liga encounter earlier this year.
Centre-back: Thiago Silva
Having just signed a huge new contract at Milan after they fought off interest (46 million euros of interest) from PSG, Thiago Silva won’t be going anywhere. Well, except Britain as he seeks Olympic glory, having already whetted his appetite with a bronze medal in 2008.
Left-back: Jordi Alba
I hesitate to call Jordi Alba a left-back seeing as he spends most of his time in the other team’s half, but Alba is rather handy nonetheless. While he might not actually play (Tito Vilanova isn’t dancing around the Nou Camp at the prospect of his new signing playing two international tournaments in the space of two months), Alba was red hot at Euro 2012 and latched on to that superlative-ridden Xavi pass to open the scoring against Italy. I’m sure right-wingers will have fun tracking him up and down the wide open spaces at Hampden, Old Trafford and later on, Wembley!
Hulk might well stick around after the Olympics and pen a deal at Chelsea, but in the meantime Porto’s incredible Brazilian will be preparing to add to his tally of three international goals. I hope he doesn’t take offence at that incredible tag, seeing as Porto and the stocky winger got a teeny weeny bit upset when Man City fans ribbed him about it in the Europa League last season. Cry me a river.
With Thiago Alcantara ruled out by injury, Malaga midfielder Isco will be expected to run the engine room of the Spanish under-23 XI. The 20-year-old Valencia graduate shone as Malaga finished 4th in La Liga – meaning they have managed to get into Europe for the second time in their history. With Sheikh Abdullah Al-Thani at the helm too, they ought to be able to keep hold of their lively young playmaker.
Central-midfield: Lucas Moura
Now everyone’s favourite billionaire Roman Abramovich has rediscovered his love of football following Champions League success (and his love of opening his wallet and throwing money around), Lucas Moura is a name mentioned. No wonder, as the Sao Paulo attacking midfielder has bagged fifteen international caps already in a rather competitive midfield – at the tender age of nineteen.
Left-midfield: Juan Mata
Probably almost as tired as Javi Martinez after spending a whole five minutes on the pitch at Euro 2012 (and possibly a rather longer amount partying), Mata is someone who needs little introduction to English fans. Expected to play rather a lot more than in Poland and Ukraine, Mata and Alba is a truly scary left-hand side.
I really wanted to include Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in this team, the Gabon forward who led his team to shock qualification by winning the African under 23 Championship last year. Yet I’d have had to overlook a certain Neymar da Silva Santos Jr, which is surely the equivalent of leaving Messi out of a La Liga team of the year or something equally silly. Thankfully I’ve plumped for the ridiculously highly rated 20-year-old, who is subject to a tug of war from every single top club in Europe. Or so it seems.
Striker: Edinson Cavani
It’s fair to say the Uruguayans aren’t messing about with the Olympics, having named both Suarez and Cavani for their inaugural Olympic outing. Oscar Tabarez’s team are ranking three in the world, so naming two of their top strikers must send out a warning to team GB, who face them on the 1st of August. Especially as Cavani’s goalscoring record for Napoli is currently 66 in 94.
Other names to watch out for are of course rather Brazilian; we have Oscar, Ganso, injury-blighted Alexandre Pato and Leandro Damiao donning the famous yellow. Good luck stopping those in the groups Egypt, Belarus and New Zealand! We also have Channel 5/ Europa League star Iker Muniain to look out for, who already has one Spain senior cap to his name. He can’t he that bad, then.
And neither can the future for Spain or Brazil looking at those available. We are unfortunately (or not depending on how you look at it) not going to get an Argentine squad as they missed out behind Brazil and Uruguay, so this should be a fairly accurate reflection of the talent on show. Be sure to check back here for Oddslife’s Olympic predictor, too!