London 2012: Best Men's Soccer Stars You Have to Watch at the Olympics
Football at the Summer Olympics doesn't hold the prestige that other international or even club competitions hold, but it does bring together some of the best young footballers in the game.
Brazil, Spain, Uruguay and hosts Great Britain are the top teams to watch in London in the coming weeks, and all of them are bringing their best young talent to the show.
Neymar has been the hottest young footballer the last couple years, and Brazil fans are hoping he can bring home gold before leading the country to another World Cup trophy in two years.
We know David Beckham won't be there, but the footballing talent is not exactly lacking without him.
David De Gea
David de Gea will be in goal and wearing the captain's armband this summer as Spain look to extend their dominance over international football to all levels.
Manchester United's 21-year-old keeper has played on plenty of big stages already in his career, the biggest of which was helping Atletico Madrid to win the Europa League in 2010. Though he didn't start out very well last season with the Red Devils, he's proven himself as one of the best young keepers in the world and easily the most experienced at the Olympics.
Being in goal for Spain can mean you don't have much to do, but with a questionable and ever-revolving defense last season, de Gea got plenty of practice on defending the counter attack.
Spain have a stacked squad, and their hopes of winning gold will rest on their goalkeeper.
Paris Saint-Germain's newest signing Thiago Silva will captain Brazil this summer, and at 27, he is one of the oldest players in the tournament.
The big centre-back, coming off three years with AC Milan, won't stand out much with Brazil, but he's vital if the junior Selecao want to head into the 2014 World Cup on a high note.
Brazil has plenty of flashy players gong forward, but Silva's age and experience will be key at the back.
Oriol Romeu is only 20 years old, but he saw some valuable time with Chelsea last season. The Spaniard can play as a centre-back or defensive midfielder, and with Spain, that may mean he doesn't see much of the ball.
With Chelsea's defense and midfield getting older, Romeu could earn more playing time next season with a strong showing in London.
Like his goalkeeper David de Gea, Romeu may not be called upon much, but as long as he stays sharp, he can give Roberto Di Matteo and everyone at Chelsea plenty to think about for the coming season.
Ryan Giggs, at age 38, earned a spot on Great Britain's Olympic team, and chances are, he'll serve the team just as well or better than the LA Galaxy's David Beckham.
Manchester United's ageless wonder has slowed down slightly in recent years, but his talent hasn't waned one bit, and Team GB will need his leadership if they hope to succeed this summer.
Coming from Wales, Giggs has never represented his country on the biggest stages, so this summer is his best chance to add some international silverware to his already stacked cabinet.
Giovani Dos Santos
Giovani dos Santos has had a terrible time as a Tottenham player, and if he wants things to get any better, at any club, he needs a big performance with Mexico in London.
The attacking midfielder has been one of Mexico's best players since the 2010 World Cup, and he's part of what has made Mexico the team to beat in CONCACAF going into 2014.
Even with Andres Villas-Boas taking over Spurs, dos Santos' playing time is not guaranteed with any club, so he has a lot to prove in a couple weeks.
Luis Suarez lit up the Premier League last season, with both his football and his words, and he's been central to Uruguay's excellent play over the last two years.
The striker is dangerous whenever he's in possession as he can create goals just as easily as he can score them.
If he can keep his temper, Uruguay will be the team to beat in London.
AC Milan's Alexandre Pato was one of the notable names left off of Brazil's squad for the 2010 World Cup, but he's been a regular since last summer's Copa America and will surely be one of Brazil's best come 2014.
But first comes London.
Pato has been overshadowed by his strike partner Neymar in recent years, but Pato has the experience with a top European club that could serve him well this summer.
At the tender age of 22, Mexico's Marco Fabian doesn't have too much experience under his belt. He can play as either a striker or attacking midfielder, but wherever he is and whatever he's doing, watch out.
In his short international career with Mexico's Under-23 side, a career consisting of only 12 appearances, Fabian has 12 goals.
Manchester United sensation Javier Hernandez won't be at the Games this summer, so a bulk of the scoring may be left up to Fabian.
The striker has told fans the team is looking to medal, and if Fabian is on, Mexico could very well be surprise gold medalists.
Daniel Sturridge's involvement in the Olympics is still up in the air as the striker is recovering from viral meningitis, but Team GB and everyone behind them better be hoping he makes it.
Sturridge is young but he's the most capable scorer Great Britain has to offer this summer.
Sturridge has been playing Premier League football since he was 17, but he's mostly been relegated to the bench. Despite an impressive scoring record from inconsistent playing time, Sturridge wasn't selected for England's Euro 2012 squad, and he'll have something the prove this summer.
With Didier Drogba gone from Chelsea and Fernando Torres' true form still unknown, the London Olympics could be huge for the 22-year-old. If he wants to be a regular starter in the Premier League, he'll have to earn it.
Even though we're two years out, Uruguay are already one of the favorites to lift the World Cup in Brazil in 2014. Edinson Cavani is a big reason why.
Napoli's star forward will be a constant goal threat in London. Pair him with Luis Suarez, and Uruguay will be pretty tough to defend against.
Cavani scored 33 goals for Napoli in all competitions last season, and you can bet he won't slow down at all at the Games.
Every football fan is either waiting for Neymar to explode and do something truly spectacular on the big stage, or they're waiting for him to disappear.
The 2012 Olympics are really the first big stage of the 20-year-old's career, and if Brazil are to win gold, they'll need their forward firing on all cylinders.
Up till now, Santos has rejected numerous advances from Europe's top clubs, but if Neymar plays like most are expecting him to this summer, Santos' time is up.
Pele has talked up Neymar any chance he's gotten, and finally, the rest of the world will get to see what all the fuss is about.
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