Olympics Soccer 2012: Edinson Cavani and Stars That Will Impact Gold-Medal Race
The Olympic football tournament will be decided by the stars.
In any tournament, there's only a handful of matches, and the best players must be at their best. Therefore, with national pride and a gold medal on the line, you can be sure the stars will be out for these games.
With that said, not every star will have a significant impact on the gold-medal race. Some countries won't be very competitive, and their best players won't play a big role in the knockout phase.
Nevertheless, some players will get that chance, and they must respond to the pressure.
Neymar is perhaps the flashiest player in the tournament.
The mohawked Brazilian is one of the most clever dribblers in the world. Even with the goal in sight, he might slow down just to nutmeg another defender. He enjoys dribbling around guys, and he isn't afraid to go out of his way to do it.
At times, the flair is a little too much. Other times, it's simply magic.
Brazil will be looking for its first-ever gold medal this summer. Neymar's creativity will have a big impact on whether or not they are successful.
Daniel Sturridge, Great Britain
Daniel Sturridge isn't exactly a household name, but he's capable of becoming a star.
More importantly, he could have a huge impact on the gold-medal race.
Great Britain will be tough. They are strong in the back and in the midfield, but no one is sure how well they will score. If Sturridge is playing selfishly, the hosts will be in trouble.
However, if Sturridge is converting and creating chances, Great Britain could make a serious impact in the tournament.
Luis Suarez, Uruguay
Luis Suarez is the most polarizing player in the tournament.
Somehow, something crazy always happens with Suarez on the pitch. The man just attracts controversy. One way or another, Suarez will be hated by someone, yet defended by those on his side.
Meanwhile, he is one of the most dynamic attacking players in the world. He's quick, direct and determined. His runs are smart, and he's great with or without the ball. Moreover, the passion he has for his country facilitates his competitive fire.
If you do one thing regarding Olympic football, make sure to watch every match Suarez plays in.
Juan Mata, Spain
Juan Mata is one of the best players in the tournament.
He was voted Player of the Year for club side Chelsea. That is, the team that won the Champions League. He also scored in the Euro 2012 final.
Sure, it was the fourth goal in a 4-0 drubbing against 10 men, but still!
He is extremely creative and patient, which will cause trouble for just about every defense. Mata is a pleasure to watch, and he will be the focal point of Spain's offense. If he plays well, Spain will be incredibly tough to beat.
Alexandre Pato, Brazil
At only 22 years of age, Alexandre Pato is one of the most accomplished players in this tournament.
He has made over 140 appearances for AC Milan, one of the greatest clubs in European history. He also has nearly 20 senior caps for Brazil.
Again, Pato is only 22.
His future is bright, but his present is more important. His speed and finishing will be key for Brazil. With such creative players around him, Pato needs to make effective runs and finish in front of the net.
Giovani dos Santos, Mexico
Giovani dos Santos is a fantastic playmaker.
While he hasn't quite made it on the first team at Tottenham Hotspur, he's been great for every level of Mexican football. He plays better at the international level, and that's exactly what Mexico needs.
Dos Santos is a great dribbler, and he has a shiftiness about him that defenders can't quite figure out. As long as he keeps moving the ball forward (and not simply side to side), Mexico will be a very tough team to beat.
Jordi Alba, Spain
Jordi Alba is the next big thing.
In one month, he made his Euro debut, signed with Barcelona, scored a goal in the Euro 2012 final and was named to the European Championship Team of the Tournament.
Not too shabby for a 23-year-old.
He's a fantastic left-back because he can do everything on the pitch, from back to front. He will be a nightmare for opponents, and he won't be contained easily.
Alba is a great player, and he (along with Juan Mata) could pull off a Euro/Olympic double in one summer.
Edinson Cavani, Uruguay
Edinson Cavani is a beast up front.
He's strong, fast and composed. With or without the ball, he can give defenses nightmares. Paired with Luis Suarez, Cavani will be one of the most lethal strikers at the Olympics.
He has a knack for finding the net, and he has the determination to put himself in the right place at the right time. He continues to improve as a player, and he looks to become one of the best strikers in the world.
For now, though, I'm assuming he would be just fine being the best striker at the Olympics and helping Uruguay win its first gold medal in over 80 years.
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