The Men’s Football Event at the 2012 London Olympic Games kicks off on 26th June when Spain play Japan at Hampden Park. Even though the Olympics have lost much of their previous sheen, and the football leg of the event still doesn’t garner viewership as much as it should, there are plenty of reasons to look forward to an event that promises so much:
Oodles of talent in the “big teams” – All the big teams taking part in the tournament (Spain, England, Brazil, etc.) have immense amount of talent in their ranks, and since this is an under-23 competition, most of them still have a point to prove. It’s as much a treat for scouts and managers as it is for the regular fan. Players like Neymar, Hulk, Ganso, Oriol Romeu, Tello, Sturridge – and so on – are seen to be extremely promising, and some already command transfer fees worth baulking at (£50m for a 19-y.o. Brazilian forward?). But they haven’t yet proven themselves on the big occasions, quite simply because they haven’t been granted the opportunity. Some either spend their time in the recluse of the Latin American leagues, while the others watch and learn from the reserves bench at their European clubs. The Olympics will act as a simulation of a World Cup or a Champions League, with the starting line-ups set to be composed of players who wouldn’t usually get the chance to grace such an occasion with either country or club. And then there are some players like Giovani dos Santos of Mexico who promised much as youngsters, but fizzled out of the public view as soon as they were thrust in. This is the perfect platform for them to mark a comeback, and maybe seal a lucrative transfer to a bigger club.
Watch out for – Neymar, Ganso, Hulk, Oriol Romeu, Dani Sturridge, Adam Johnson, Cristian Tello, Cesar Azpilicueta, Giovani, Gaston Ramirez (and so many more).
Transfers will begin to take shape – Clubs usually wait till the end of a season, or a competition such as this one, before delving into the market, especially for youth. On the other hand, a club will act shrewdly and snap up their targets before the tournament begins, and then watch the value of their player skyrocket (ala Javier Hernandez during the 2010 World Cup). Some players will appreciate in value, some will depreciate, others will already have been sold. The futures of all the ‘stars’ will be decided by the time the tournament wraps up. Watch the tournament just so that you have an idea of how the players who your favourite clubs are after, actually turn out to be.
Ryan Giggs at an international tournament – Given, not all of us are Ryan Giggs fanatics, but the opportunity to see one of Manchester United‘s greatest ever players finally grace the international stage, that too as Captain, is one which not many will miss. David Beckham, many will argue, deserved it, but Giggs has been waiting for this chance since the day he made his national debut, but Wales was never good enough for him. It will most certainly be the only time we see the Great put on colours other than the Mancunian red, and play in a competitive tournament. A man with the capability to lift the Wales team on his own, his experience will be required now that their best player, Gareth Bale, is out with injury. The icing on the cake would be watching Ryan Giggs receive a Gold Medal, but that is an event far-off, at the moment.
Spain might just win this too – Yes, it is a distinct possibility, given the team they have. La Liga has an excellent youth system, and the players which Barcelona, Real Madrid, Sevilla, Valencia and the like continually produce are testaments to that quality. Jordi Alba, Javi Martinez, and Juan Mata are carried over from the Euro 2012 squad. And in the unlikely event that they remain benched, the replacements are ample in number and quality. David De Gea, Azpilicueta, Iker Munian, Cristian Tello and Adrian are players of real promise, and have had excellent domestic seasons. Plus, Martin Montoya and Oriol Romeu are two players who have much to prove to their clubs with all the hype surrounding them. The Spanish under Luis Milla, will no doubt play an attractive brand of football, but expect that style to exude substance at the crunch periods. A fourth consecutive Spanish victory at a major international tournament would seal not just the currently raging debates, but would be prophetic of the future of the team as well. And that victory is not too unlikely.