Olympic Soccer: 2008 Olympic Stars Who Failed to Live Up to Expectations
Football at the 2012 London Olympics will give emerging young talents some worldwide coverage. You should document the best U-23 players at the Olympics and see where they are in four years time.
This article will look at the stars of the 2008 Beijing Olympics who've since failed to live up to expectations.
Notorious underachievers like Royston Drenthe, Ryan Babel and Freddy Adu won't be listed because they didn't perform like stars during the tournament.
Belgium: Faris Haroun
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Who would have thought that Faris Haroun's midfield partner would make the transition into an elite centre-back. Do you know who I'm talking about? Jan Vertonghen, who donned the No. 10 shirt, the same number Enzo Scifo wore at two FIFA World Cups.
Vertonghen didn't make much of an impression but Haroun certainly did.
Haroun was boisterous, competitive and a great leader on the field.
Instead of playing for Tottenham Hotspur like Vertonghen, Haroun is playing for Middlesbrough.
Nigeria: Sani Kaita
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Sani Kaita was the heart and soul of Samson Siasia's Silver medal-winning Nigerian squad.
Kaita and Femi Ajilore worked tirelessly to win back possession, which allowed Solomon Okoronkwo and Victor Obinna to wreak havoc.
If Kaita played the same way he did in Beijing every week, he'd be on the books of Arsenal or Inter Milan.
Argentina: Ezequiel Garay
Ezequiel Garay was more dominant in the air than on the ground. He could bring the ball out of defence and was a physical specimen.
Those who watched him at the Beijing Olympics weren't surprised when Real Madrid came calling. You know what was surprising? Garay not getting an extended run even when Real's back four was Arsenal-esq.
Belgium: Tom De Mul
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Moussa Dembélé may have grabbed the headlines with his goals but it was Tom de Mul's mazey dribbling which created many opportunities for Dembélé.
Ironically Dembélé plays De Mul's role at Fulham, with Clint Dempsey and Pavel Pogrebnyak cashing in last season.
De Mul's career has been dented by injuries, and as a result, he lost that first step, which is why his dribbling suffered.
Looking at Jean-François de Sart's squad, the best four players going forward were the ones who flew under the radar: Vincent Kompany, Jan Vertonghen, Thomas Vermaelen and Marouane Fellaini.
Kompany and Fellaini didn't play again after their indiscretions against Brazil. Vertonghen was outshone by Faris Haroun. Vermaelen marshaled a back four that conceded goals for fun.
Ivory Coast: Salomon Kalou
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Salomon Kalou played well in Beijing but he wasn't the best player on his team. That accolade belonged to some guy from Le Mans called Gervais Lombe Yao Kouassi, perhaps better known as Gervinho.
Kalou never fulfilled his potential at Chelsea because he allowed management to misuse him.
Moving to Lille is a smart footballing decision because he is now the alpha male of the team.
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Four years ago, Diego had the world at his feet and was on the brink of superstardom. He wasn't look-at-me dominant like Carlos Tévez in Athens, but Diego was at his classy best in Beijing.
He could do it all as a No. 10—lofting long balls to Jō, through balls to Alexandre Pato, 1-2s with Ronaldinho, the ability to conduct play, dribble in tight spaces and finishing under duress.
When you think about it, 2008 was the last superstar year Diego had.
Why has he failed so dramatically?
There's a reason why Romário bolted back to Brazil—he couldn't deal with the discipline and rigour of European football.
Diego is the same but he's stayed the course, which has seen him sadly struggle for Juventus and Wolfsburg. He rekindled some remnants of the old Diego on loan at Atlético Madrid but it was still a shade of a player whose upside was as high as Lionel Messi.
Talking about Brazil, Diego's teammates Rafael Sóbis and Thiago Neves also failed to live up to expectations. Though there's another Brazilian that catastrophically blew his chance of being something special—you'll soon find out who I'm referring to.
Nigeria: Victor Obinna
Victor Obinna showed the world how he could accelerate past any opposing player.
In terms of productivity and flair, he was the best attacking player during that tournament—yes, even better than Lionel Messi.
Obinna scored and provided a combined six goals compared to Messi's four. Bear in mind, Obinna played with inferior teammates.
Yet, Obinna didn't make the grade at Inter Milan and is now playing for Lokomotiv Moscow.
He had two world-class individual performances during his loan spell at West Ham United—four assists against Manchester United and a hat trick against Nottingham Forest.
He could have been so much better.
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Breno was a man-child who was strong in the tackle and read the play well enough to make several key interceptions.
He was just 18 years old. How could he be that good?
God gave him the technical and physical tools to become a world-class centre-back. To even the playing field, God decided that Breno would be an impulsive, psychologically flawed and second-rate human being.
Earlier this month, he was jailed for three years and nine months for burning down the house he rented.