London 2012: 10 Soccer Storylines to Follow Leading Up to the Olympic Games
With the Olympic Games fast-approaching we at Bleacher are looking to bring you some of the soccer storylines heading into the 2012 Olympics in London.
Olympic Soccer will be well worth watching this time around and there will be tons of talent on display.
With storylines such as the U.S. Women's National team bid to make it three gold medals in a row, or whether or not Jordi Alba will annoy his new club by participating in the Games, there is a lot to look forward to.
Here are 10 soccer storylines to follow leading up to the Olympic Games.
How Will Team Great Britain Do?
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Team Great Britain will have the home support in the tournament, but they will have plenty of competition for the gold medal.
The team may not have a lot of pressure considering the Olympics isn't as highly viewed in world football as, say, the World Cup, but they will still be certain expectations considering all the drama in the lead-up to the Games.
While all the players will be familiar with each other due to their time in the Premier League, they are the one team that has spent the least amount of time together.
Will Brazil Win Its First Olympic Gold Medal?
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Top footballing nations like Argentina, Spain and France have won soccer tournaments at the Olympic Games. Brazil is still waiting to join that list.
With a squad including Neymar, Hulk, Thiago Silva and other top talents, the Brazilians are strong favourites for the tournament.
If they can get past the likes of Spain and Uruguay, they can claim that gold medal.
Ryan Giggs Seeking First International Achievement
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Ryan Giggs was recently appointed captain of Team GB in what will certainly be his last involvement in international football.
The Welsh great is one of the best players not to make it to the World Cup, and an Olympic medal, preferably gold, would be his first and last international honour.
Barcelona's Jordi Alba Set to Play Against His Club's Wishes
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Will Chu-Young Park Win Back the Favour of Fans and Media in His Country?
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The fact that Arsenal's Chu-Young Park was selected as one of his nation's "over-age" players makes for an interesting story.
For anyone not aware of the situation regarding the South Korean, here's the breakdown. Earlier this year it was reported that the Arsenal man would delay his mandatory military service, which meant he could continue his career in Europe.
"On his decision to overlook Park, Choi Kang-Hee told reporters: "I think he should publicise his thoughts clearly. A national team must take into account not only an individual player's capability but the atmosphere of the whole team."
He added: "What is important is whether a player is willing to sacrifice for the team and whether he has pride in his team."
Park took a step in the right direction with an apology and stated his intent to do his service, and will turn out for his nation again during the tournament.
With all that having transpired during the last few months, Park could do himself even more of a favour by putting in some good performances for South Korea in this tournament.
It probably won't mend everything right away but it would certainly help.
Who Will Announce Himself in This Men's Tournament?
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The fact that there will be so much top talent in the men's tournament means it should be a very interesting affair that football fans will enjoy.
There will be a lot of up-and-coming stars on the field and they will have the chance to test their skills against really good international opposition.
Players like Spain's Ander Herrera, Brazil's Oscar, Gabon's Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and many others are among the most fascinating talents on the rise, and some strong performances would make folks sit up in their seats even more.
There's also the possibility that players who are generally lesser-known to fans around the world but are known by their countrymen could also raise their profiles.
Carlos Tevez is an example of a player who raised his already-growing profile during the Olympic Games. Who will be next?
Will U.S. Women Make It Three in a Row?
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The U.S. Women's National team have a chance to win their third straight gold medal and re-assert some dominance on the international stage in the process.
The team has a great history in the tournament, having won three times and gotten a silver medal in four tournaments since 1996.
Abby Wambach, Hope Solo, Alex Morgan and the rest of the crew would love to continue the team's gold-medal-winning ways in London.
Can Japan Women Continue Their Form on the International Stage?
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Japan's 2011 World Cup victory represents their first major trophy on the international stage and could be a sign of things to come.
The Japanese women's team played some great football last year and will be among the favourites as they will be relying on a virtually the same squad that won in Germany
Since they won't be a surprise package, it will be interesting to see how they fare against teams this time around.
Will Brazil's Women Team Finally Make a Breakthrough?
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Brazil's women side have done well in both the World Cup and the Olympics, but have yet to find gold-medal success.
They were silver medalists in the last two Olympic Games, and their best finish in the World Cup was second place as well. Marta and company will be looking to finally make their mark against much of the same tough competition they faced last year.
How Will International Tournament Debutantes South Africa Do?
South Africa's women's team will be participating in their first international tournament that is not on their continent as they have never before qualified for either the World Cup or the Olympic Games.
Here's what their coach, Joseph Mkhonza, had to say via fifa.com.
"We want to make a statement at the Olympics because in South Africa women’s football is not yet professional,”
"By doing well, we will have a chance to improve the standing of women's football."