Sixteen countries will go in search of soccer Gold at the 2021 Olympics. The usual heavyweights are all there, with the likes of Brazil, Spain, France and Argentina all favoured to be fighting it out towards the business end of the tournament. With that being said we’ve already seen a few massive upsets in round 1 of matches so it’s clear that this gold medal is well and truly up for grabs.
Like the World Cup, teams are split into groups of four where they play in a round robin style format with the top two sides from each group progressing through to the knockout stages.
You can see a full preview and betting predictions for each group below. Our Aussies are in Group C while my outright prediction and best value bet of the tournament can be found at the bottom of the page.
Teams: Mexico, Japan, South Africa, France
Well this group has already been turned on its head with Mexico demolishing France 4-1 in the opening game while Japan also prevailed 1-0 over South Africa. Many had predicted France to come out on top of this group but they were very disappointing in that opening match. Whether it was nerves or simply they just had an off day, the French clearly have one of the stronger squads within the tournament. They’re littered with top-level European talent while Florian Thauvin and Andre-Pierre Gignac are the over-age players. Mexico proved they will be a force in this tournament and look likely to progress from the group following their opening round win.
Japan have a strong side led by Serie A defender Maya Yoshida and they proved their defence might be the reason they can progress through this group. South Africa are probably the weakest side on paper here and their squad is mainly made up of players who all play locally in their home country. Even following some early upset results, I’m confident both France and Mexico’s young talent will shine through and progress out of the group.
Teams: New Zealand, Romania, Honduras, South Korea
Arguably the weakest group of the four, Group B is extremely open and you could make a case for all four sides to be a realistic chance of topping the group. In the opening round of matches, New Zealand managed to topple South Korea 1-0 in what was an upset while Romania accounted for Honduras 1-0. The Kiwis have a pretty decent squad at these Olympics headlined by Premier League players Chris Wood and Winston Reid who have both been selected as the over-age players. This is the first time since 2012 that New Zealand will feature in the soccer at Olympics and I give them a good chance to progress to the knockout stages.
All eyes were expected to be on Son Heung-min for South Korea after the Tottenham superstar was granted permission to feature for his country. Unfortunately the team opted to leave him out of the squad to protect him for the upcoming premier league season. The Korean side are mostly made up of local players, featuring just three who play abroad. Romania are favourites to top this group and have a strong team who are coached by Dynamo Kyiv boss Mircea Lucescu. They showed in their opening game they play a fast brand of football and will look to challenge a few of the bigger name nations later in the tournament.
Teams: Australia, Egypt, Spain, Argentina
Labelled the ‘group of death’ it was obvious to see why so many of us here in Australia held little hope of progressing through to the knockout stages. All three of Spain, Egypt and Argentina have some of the best young squads in world football who play in all the top leagues around the globe and you weren’t alone if you didn’t hold high hopes for our Olyroos. That has all changed however following a massive couple of results in the opening round of matches. The Aussies knocked off Argentina 2-0 in a massive boil over while Egypt toppled Spain, who were the pre-tournament favourites to take home the Gold. This is the first time Australia has qualified for the Olympics since 2008 and Graham Arnold continues to get the best out of his team. The Olyroos squad is obviously predominantly made up of A-League players while Daniel Arzani, who starred for the Socceroos at the World Cup is the headline name on the team.Mitch Duke will lead the line up top as the over-age player of the side. Argentina were expected to make light work of the Olyroos but put in a bad one the other night. Their squad is strong however and the likes of Thiago Almada will be hoping they can bounce back.
Spain were the early favourites to win this tournament due to the strength of their squad. They will feature six players who all played in the Euro’s last month with Real Madrid’s Dani Ceballos and Marco Asensio named as the over-age players. They were expected to top this group but now have their work cut out for them following a shock 0-0 draw to Egypt. I still think they’ll be progressing through and will be out to make a statement in their next two matches. Egypt originally named Mohamed Salah in their provisional squad but he was later excluded from their final squad list. Former Premier League defender Ahmed Hegazi is the only player in the squad who plays their football abroad. They didn’t seem to have much attacking presence in the opening game and I think they might struggle to progress through. Australia’s match with Egypt looks our best realistic chance of getting another and would be enough to get us through.
Teams: Brazil, Ivory Coast, Saudi Arabia, Germany
Many have predicted this group to be a two-horse race and it probably is shaping up that way with Brazil and Germany the two powerhouses in thr group. Brazil are the current defending champions and flexed their muscle the other night with an emphatic 4-2 win over Germany. Everton star Richarlison scored a first half hat trick in that one and Brazill look a massive chance to win gold again if they continue playing like that. Barcelona legend Dani Alves and Arsenal’s Gabriel Martinellia lead the way as the two over-age players in the squad.
The Brazilians look very strong and I’m expecting them to be there in the final. Germany probably don’t have as strong a squad as many would expect with so many of their young stars being locked away by their clubs for the upcoming season. They were much better in the second half against Brazil and their upcoming much against Saudi Arabia is a must-win. Ivory Coast have a good young pool of talent including Manchester United winger Amad Diallo. They’ve also selected United defender Eric Bailly while AC Milan’s Franck Kessie and Max Gradel are the other two over-age players. They got their campaign off to a winning start against Saudi Arabia and I think they are a chance to progress through and make a run in this tournament. Saudi Arabia are probably outclassed on paper here with a squad made up of players who all play in their home country. It looks a tough task seeing them scrape together some points in this group.
After just one round of matches there is still so much to play out but I was taken by how well Brazil played, demolishing a strong team like Germany is no easy feat and that was a big statement from them. Spain probably look like their biggest threat and arguably have the best squad at this tournament while France, Mexico and Japan are all strong enough chances if they can string some form together. Our Olyroos have a great chance of progressing through to the knockout stages following that upset win against Argentina and I think that will be a massive result in itself. Realistically I can’t see us making a deep run but the Aussies proved they’ll be no easy beats at this Olympics.
I honestly think the Ivory Coast are massive value and have a very good group of players who are sprinkled with top tier talent. They can definitely progress out of their group and if they manage to do so I wouldn’t be surprised to see them pull off a couple of upsets along the way. Brazil go on top for me however, and look a very strong chance to defend their title from the 2016 Olympics. The form of Richarlison could be crucial and he will have many opposition defences worried if he can continue to bang goals in.
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