2012 Olympics: 10 Reasons Football Will Be Worth Watching in These London Games
Football at the Olympics is somewhat of an afterthought in the game, but this year's edition will be worth watching for a variety of reasons.
With some potentially great matches, entertaining football and magnificent individual talent sure to be on display, the football competition could really be special in these London Games.
Here are 10 reasons why football will be worth watching at the upcoming 2012 Olympics.
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Brazil's Neymar stands out as the marquee player in the men's tournament and there are a number of talents on the women's side, one of which we will single out later.
The fact that the men's game is basically a U-23 tournament—with the exception of three overage players turning out for each—hasn't doused the quality individuals that fans will see.
Players such as Hulk, Giovani Dos Santos, Ryan Giggs, Ander Herrera, Granit Xhaka, Andy Najar and others will be on full view.
The women's side has no such age restrictions, so a lot of the same stars that folks saw in the 2011 World Cup will be back at it again. Brazil's world-renowned Marta probably tops the list, with other players like Abby Wambach, Kelly Smith, Homare Sawa and Eugenie Le Sommer participating as well.
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Fans aren't generally too interested football in the Olympics, but with the aforementioned quality that most sides will be presenting, this year's tournament promises a great amount of competition.
The women's side will probably be more competitive thanks to the fact that all teams will be fielding their senior sides.
While one top team in Germany will be missing, all the semifinalists from the 2011 World Cup—France, Japan, Sweden and the USA—are participating, and an always-strong Brazil team will be there as well.
On the men's side, one only hopes that all the quality talent will lend itself to a memorable tourney as well. Some teams are certainly weaker—such as Gabon, the United Arab Emirates and Honduras—but, as we see time and again in the game, nothing should be taken for granted.
Possible International Success for Ryan Giggs
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Unless he somehow makes it onto Wales 2014 World Cup squad (provided they make it to the tournament) the London Games may be Ryan Giggs' best shot at winning an international tournament.
A gold medal is nothing to be scoffed at when it comes to athletics, and that really shouldn't be the case with football either.
Giggs may feel a bit awkward at first not doing it in a Welsh shirt, but it would be a proud and crowning achievement nonetheless.
Team Great Britain
Despite all the talent that teams like Spain and Brazil possess, it is the men's Great Britain side that may be the most intriguing team in the competition.
The idea to field a united Wales, Scotland, England and Northern Ireland front was not well received at first, with Wales and Scotland reluctant to participate and warnings from UEFA general secretary David Taylor and FIFA President Sepp Blatter.
To make matters even more interesting, the football associations from Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland let it be known to FIFA that they were okay with a Team GB made up of only English players. Two young Welsh stars, Aaron Ramsey and Gareth Bale, stated their desire to represent the united team.
After all that drama, Stuart Pearce was selected as head coach for Team GB and announced his intention to select players from all nations if possible.
In the end, the team has been comprised of players from England and Wales, but what a roller-coaster ride it has been.
There is a fair share of talent—with the aforementioned Giggs as well as Aaron Ramsey, Tom Cleverley, Micah Richards and others—but it will be interesting to see how this team is supported and performs.
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No, this is not because of her looks. Alex Morgan looks set to be the future of women's soccer for the U.S., and she will play a pivotal role in the team's chances in London.
The young attacker, who shot to stardom during last year's World Cup, will look to help her team erase the memories of losing in the WC final and help her nation win its third successive Olympic title.
There will be be plenty of tough opposition, but Morgan has already shown what kind of finishing and on-the-ball skills she has. Morgan certainly has the talent to set another tournament alight.
Japanese Women's Team
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The Japanese women's roster for the competition consists of 18 players from the 2011 World Cup-winning squad. That certainly makes them early favourites for the tournament.
This side produced some really good football en route to the final last year, and fans should expect more of the same.
Possible Japan vs. USA Rematch
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These two teams produced an entertaining World Cup final last year, and they could meet again late in the knockout stages of this tournament.
The way the tournament is set up, Japan and USA could meet in either the quarterfinals or semifinals, depending on their group-stage results.
It would certainly provide one intriguing matchup and hopefully replicate the excitement of the team's last meeting.
Possibility of Continued Spanish Dominance, or Rare Failure
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The talent on Spain's preliminary roster cannot be questioned, and it makes them one of the favourites once again to win an international tournament.
With a lot of talented opposition in their way, it will be interesting to see whether these players can prolong the dominance of their more senior counterparts.
The style of play may not exactly be the same, but Spanish coach Luis Milla may have some familiar faces to work with after leading the U-21 team to its European championship last summer (and that helps).
Whether Spain succeed or falter, fans will surely want to tune in to see how these up-and-coming stars perform against elite international opposition.
Possible Spain vs. Brazil Final
Athletic Bilbao's Ander Herrera likely to play a key role for Spain
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Both sides are strong favourites and should go far regardless, but it may turn out very badly for one side.
Depending on their results in the group stages, they could meet as early as the quarterfinal. The winner would be a very strong favourite from that point.
If all things work out as expected, and both sides top their groups and win all remaining games, Spain and Brazil could meet in what would be a very exciting Olympic final, which would hopefully top off a great tournament.
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Judging by previous competition on both the men's and women's sides, there will be much entertainment this time around as well. The recently concluded Euro 2012 earned much praise thanks to the attacking play, which resulted in 76 goals in 31 games.
The Olympics tournaments have produced similar results the last few tournaments, and that bodes well for any fan who appreciates exciting football.
Let's hope the trend continues in a spirited and skillfully played 2012 tournament.