With the eyes of the world turning to Rio de Janeiro for the Olympic Games over the coming days, the Olympic Football Tournaments have drawn one step closer, with the confirmation of the final squads for the men’s and women’s competitions.
A total of 288 players have been chosen by the 16 men’s sides, with 216 players selected for the 12 women’s sides. A tournament steeped in history – the men’s edition predates the FIFA World Cup™ by two decades – the class of 2016 will look to follow in the footsteps of innumerable famous gold medal winners.
The last three gold medal-winning sides in the men’s tournament have come from the Americas, with five of the six finalists in the past three editions coming from either North or South America. This edition’s talented squads from those two continents, headlined by hosts Brazil, will be looking to continue the recent success at the Olympics. Neymar is the main attraction, with the Barcelona megastar hoping to emulate the success of the 2013 FIFA Confederations Cup on home soil, and partially heal the wounds of Brazil 2014 by securing A Selecao’s maiden footballing gold.
The hosts will face stiff competition from continental rivals Colombia who can count Teo Gutierrez, a star of Brazil 2014, among their ranks, while Mexico can call on the talents of Oribe Peralta – who grabbed four goals on the way to gold at London 2012, including a strike in the opening minute of the gold medal match against Brazil.
It is rare for any Men’s Olympic Football Tournament squads to boast a World Cup winner, but Matthias Ginter takes his place in the Germany squad having tasted success as a member of Germany’s Brazil 2014 squad. The Bender twins, Lars and Sven, are also included, after they missed out on Die Nationalmannschaft’s glory two years ago.
Atlanta 1996 winners Nigeria have the experienced and calming influence of Chelsea’s John Mikel Obi in midfield, while his London neighbour, Tottenham Hotspur and Korea Republic forward Son Heungmin, is the undoubted star of the Asian squads.
Anybody who watched the FIFA Women’s World Cup last year will be hugely excited by the prospect of the Women’s Football Tournament at Rio 2016, with Canada 2015’s victors, and five-time gold medal winners USA the favourites heading into the tournament. They boast seven gold medal winners among their squad.
They will be rivalled by a strong host nation, headlined by five-time FIFA Women’s World Player of the Year Marta, with 38-year-old Formiga looking to continue her remarkable streak of appearing at every Women’s Olympic Football Tournament since the maiden finals in 1996; Rio represents her sixth Olympic call-up.