This summer has already been jampacked with exciting international tournament football and it’s not over yet. The Tokyo Olympics 2020 Men’s Football Tournament starts on Thursday 22 July. Sixteen teams have qualified for the tournament – but who will walk home with the prize? Read on for analysis of who we think are the best teams, our match predictions and betting tips.
How does the Tokyo Olympics 2020 Football Tournament work?
Like any other major tournament, the 16 teams who have qualified for the tournament have been split into groups for the first part of the tournament. From these four groups of four the top two teams in each group advance to the knockout tournament where they will fight for the right to play in the Gold Medal match at Yokohama on August 7.
Teams are restricted to under-24 players (those born on or after 1 January 1997) with a maximum of three overage players allowed. A total of 22 players are allowed on each roster, with teams selecting a squad of 18 for each match.
Who are the favourites to win the Tokyo Olympics 2020 Football Tournament?
This is an interesting tournament to try to pick a winner due to the nature of the squads that are allowed to be picked; coupled with the conditions in Japan this summer and the COVID bubbles are in place mean that the winning team might not necessarily be the best one, but the one that is most capable of dealing with the conditions.
We’ve outlined the favourites below for you:
Spain are currently the favourites with the bookies prior to the tournament at odds of just 3.00. This has much to do with their incredibly strong squad which features several players who have played for the main Spanish team at the recent European Championship finals.
Skippered by Arsenal midfielder Dani Ceballos, there are no less than six players who were beaten semi-finalists in London just three weeks ago. Of those six players no less than five started the semi-final against Italy, with Unai Simon and Dani Olmo playing all 120 minutes. Olmo was guilty of missing Spain’s first penalty in the shootout but the RB Leipizig forward looked one of the sharper forward players in what was a very blunt Spanish attack.
The big question surrounding Spain will be how those players cope with a second major tournament in quick succession, particularly with the nature of having to be in a Covid bubble. It’s a lot of pressure for players like 18-year-old wunderkind Pedri and it might be that 3.00 is too short to be of value.
Brazil come into this tournament as the defending champions and once again have named a very strong squad for the Olympics. While only Aston Villa midfielder Douglas Luiz and Everton forward Richarlison have been retained from the squad which were beaten finalists two weeks ago, the Brazil Olympics team is stocked full of names that are immediately recognisable to fans of European football. Lyon defensive midfielder Bruno Guimaraes recently made his debut for the full Brazil squad following a good season in Ligue 1 while skipper Dani Alves needs no introduction having won 118 senior caps.
Up front Brazil head coach has a wealth of riches to choose from including Arsenal forward Gabriel Martinelli, while Hertha Berlin striker Matheus Cunha has scored 18 goals in 19 appearances for Brazil’s u23 side including four goals in the 2019 Toulon Tournament winning side. It’s difficult to argue against Brazil’s Olympic squad adding to their medal collection which stands at one gold, one silver and two bronze medals since 1996.
Unlike the previous two teams, the French Olympic squad doesn’t feature any players who have played in previous tournaments this summer. Head coach Sylvain Ripoli has had to deal with teams refusing to release players for the tournament which has left him with a much greener side than one would expect to play in the tournament.
The team is skippered by veteran striker Andre-Pierre Gignac. The 35-year-old forward has played for Mexican team Tigres UANL since 2015, scoring 128 goals in 222 games and has 36 caps for the senior French side although he has not turned out for Les Bleus since 2016. He’s joined in the squad by his new teammate at Tigres Florian Thauvin, who has just moved to Mexico having played for Marseille for the last five years scoring 63 goals in 157 games.
This may be a very steep learning curve for a team which is short on experience but full of talent. In a group which contains the hosts Japan along with Mexico and South Africa they have a very good chance of making the knock out stages but it the big question will be about how the younger players deal with what will be tough conditions.
The hosts could be the value bet in this tournament, despite their lesser pedigree. Like France, Japan start in Group A but looking past the group stages they are in what seems to be the weaker half of the draw. That coupled with home advantage – which we saw at the European Championship counted for a lot – could see them go much further than many would expect.
The team is skippered by ex-Southampton defender Maya Yoshida, who has 107 senior Japanese caps in an international career which has spanned 11 years. Now at Sampdoria, Yoshida was a consistent choice in a team which finished ninth in Serie A last season and has the experience to help guide the younger players in the squad. The squad also features young Real Madrid winger Takefusa Kubo. Kubo has not yet turned out for Los Merengues but he made 18 appearances for Getafe last season in La Liga and is seen as an up and coming talent.
Japan’s Olympic team have only got past the group stage twice since 1996, finishing fourth at the London games in 2012. Can they make home advantage count this time?