Tokyo Olympics - Men's Football Preview: Medal Favourites, Key Players, Countries qualified, Age restriction rules, Competition format & more
Like all Sporting tournaments, the Tokyo Olympics was also delayed by a year due to the unprecedented pandemic. The delayed Olympic tournament will start on the 23rd of July in the absence of international fans. However, the quality of the athletes on show at the Tokyo Olympics is likely not to be hindered. Football fans around the globe will be delighted to get one more international tournament to spectate.
— #Tokyo2020 (@Tokyo2020) July 15, 2021
FootTheBall brings all the details you need to know ahead of the start of the prestigious tournament. The group stages to the tournament will be starting a day before the opening ceremony on the 22nd of July. According to the prescribed timetable, the final group stage will end on July 28. The quarter-finals will be played on the 31st and the semis on the 3rd of August. The bronze medal match is scheduled for the 6th and the final will be on the 7th of August.
Football, unlike most events in the Olympics, will be spread across various venues in Tokyo and the cities of Sapporo, Rifu, Kashima, Saitama and Yokohama. The Gold medal match will be played in Yokohama.
A total of 16 countries are participating in the category of Men’s football. Host nation Japan and fifteen other nations that earned qualification will be divided into 4 groups of 4 teams each. In each group, every team will play each other once and the top two teams from each group will earn a place in the quarter-finals.
The qualifying nations will then play a single quarter-final leg. The winners will progress to the semi-finals and then eventually to the finals. The winner of the final will be awarded a gold medal and the runners up a silver. The semi-final losers will play for the bronze medal. With every medal adding value to their respective countries overall haul, there is sure to be fierce competition among the teams.
Group A: Japan, South Africa, Mexico, France
Group B: New Zealand, South Korea, Honduras, Romania
Group C: Egypt, Spain, Argentina, Australia
Group D: Brazil, Germany, Ivory Coast, Saudi Arabia
AGE RESTRICTION RULES
Unlike major international football tournaments that are under FIFA’s schedule, the Tokyo Olympics has various restrictions on player involvement. The new rules for Men’s football in the Olympics have essentially made it an under-23 tournament.
The rules state that only players born on or after 23 years prior to the Olympics will be allowed to participate in the competition. However, this year’s Olympics will have an exemption as it was delayed by a year. Therefore, this year’s Olympics in Tokyo will allow players aged 24 or under to be included in the roster.
The Olympic Games #Tokyo2020 will be held from 23 July until 8 August 2021.
— #Tokyo2020 (@Tokyo2020) March 30, 2020
There is also one other exemption included in the format ever since the rule change. The over-age rule came in 1996 wherein three players who didn’t fit the age criteria was allowed to take part in the tournament for their respective nations. Thus allowing three experienced players to be part of the squad.
South Africa will be the clear underdogs in the group as they prepare to take on hosts Japan, talented France and competition veterans Mexico. France is tipped to be one of the favourites to win the tournament as always. There’s no shortage of talent in the squad, with every position being filled with a talented superstar in the making. They are favourites to top the group and will be in contention to take home at least one medal this summer.
— Equipe de France ⭐⭐ (@equipedefrance) July 8, 2021
Although they had setbacks in team selection as many clubs were unwilling to allow their players to compete, France still has some stellar names in their squad. Nathanael Mbuku and Florian Thauvin will likely be the Les Bleus most valued assets heading into the tournament.
Spain goes into the tournament with a squad that can is unparalleled in the tournament. They have a distinct advantage over every other team in the tournament that is almost borderline unfair. Clubs generally do not need to release players for the tournament as it does not come under FIFA’s footballing schedule. However, Spanish players who ply their trade in the domestic league in Spain cannot be denied by their clubs to participate in the tournament.
🙌🏻 ¡¡SOÑEMOS A LO GRANDE!!
👥 Estos son los jugadores convocados por Fede Vidal para preparar el Mundial de Lituania de Fútbol Sala.
🇪🇸 El combinado nacional iniciará su concentración el próximo sábado 24 de julio en la Ciudad del Fútbol.
— Selección Española de Fútbol (@SeFutbol) July 14, 2021
Hence, Spain has named one of the best squads of the tournament to push for gold in Tokyo. Six players who reached the semi-final in the European Championships are named in the star-studded squad. Unai Simon, Eric Garcia, Pau Torres, Mikel Oyarzabal, Dani Olmo and Pedri will be part of the squad for Spain.
If fatigue does not kick in, these players will be expected to help Spain breeze through the competition. They are undoubtedly one of the favourites to take home the gold.
Brazil has won a medal in the last three Olympic tournaments including gold in last years edition. They beat Germany on penalties to lay claim to the medal at the Maracana Stadium. They will once again face Germany in the group this time, but despite the result, are favourites to progress through to the knockouts. Blessed with a talented squad capable of pushing for the gold, Selecao is the undoubted favourites barring Spain to win the competition.
No último teste antes de @Tokyo2020, a #SeleçãoOlímpica venceu os Emirados Árabes por 5 x 2, gols de Diego Carlos, Reinier, Gabriel Martinelli e Matheus Cunha (2). Agora é foco máximo na estreia na próxima quinta (22), às 8h30, em busca do ouro! 🏅🇧🇷
📸: Lucas Figueiredo/CBF pic.twitter.com/egs3OvlcBP
— CBF Futebol (@CBF_Futebol) July 15, 2021
Copa America stars Richarlison and Douglas Luiz will be part of the squad that travels to Tokyo. Veteran superstar Dani Alves and young prodigy Gabriel Martinelli will also be part of the line-up. With names like Matheus Cunha and Reinier also part of the squad, the Brazilians will hope to come out on top once again.
TAKEFUSA KUBO – JAPAN
Twenty-year-old sensation, Takefuso Kubo is one of the prized candidates that will grace the competition. Real Madrid’s prodigy was once a Barcelona youth product and has been spending time on loan for the past three seasons.
— サッカー日本代表【U24】vs🇪🇸7.17@ノエスタ (@jfa_samuraiblue) June 12, 2021
Dubbed the “Japanese Messi”, many believe this competition might be where he marks his presence. Real Madrid’s Carlo Ancelotti will be keeping an eye on their left-footed wunderkind as he prepares to help hosts Japan qualify to the knockouts.
PEDRI – SPAIN
To compete at par with the best players in Europe at just the tender age of 18 is a feat in itself. The Barcelona star man played every minute for Spain in the European Championships and was one of the best players for the country.
— WhoScored.com (@WhoScored) July 9, 2021
With excellent ball retention, passing and dribbling ability, Pedri is one of the most dangerous players on the field. A tireless work ethic has earned him praise in Euro 2020 and his pressing capabilities is perhaps one of the best out there. Pedri can easily be one of the best players in the competition if he maintains his tempo.
DANI ALVES – BRAZIL
If there’s one player in the competition that does not need an introduction, it is Dani Alves. At 38 years of age, he might not be his best version but is still one of the best players on the field. He is the most decorated player in the history of the sport with 42 trophies. Considered to be one of the best right-backs to ever play the game, Dani Alves is also the second most decorated footballer in European Competitions.
Excited to see Dani Alves play at the @Tokyo2020 Olympics? ⚽
— Olympics (@Olympics) June 19, 2021
Even though there is a plethora of silverware to his name, Olympic gold is not on the cards so far. He could very well add this to his crowded collection as he leads the Selecao in Tokyo. Dani Alves might be the oldest of the group and may lack in many departments compared to his teammates. But, one area he clearly dominates is experience, one that the talented Brazilian squad desperately need.