The Argentina U20 side that won last year’s South American U20 Championship are a big price to win Olympic gold in Rio this summer, mainly on account of one Brazilian player. Barcelona superstar Neymar swerved the recent Copa America to represent his country as one of three over age players at their home Olympic games.
Brazil has never won the Olympic football tournament, which is something of a surprise for the nation that has seen so much success in the sport over the years, and they are determined to put that statistic right in front of their own fans in Rio. However, their favouritism may well be overstated due to Neymar’s inclusion, as a much more experienced squad performed poorly at the Copa America, and coach Dunga was given his marching orders in the aftermath. Much depends on how you view the impact that such a player can have, but football always has and always will be a team game, and Brazil could be set for a shock if they expect one man to carry them to the trophy.
16 teams will compete for men’s Olympic gold, split into the usual four groups of four with each set to play each other once. The top two in each group will qualify for the quarter finals, with the final scheduled in for Saturday 20th August.
Squads are limited to players under the age of 23, but each country is able to select up to three players as ‘overage’ representatives, and Neymar falls into that category. Brazil have also taken the talented Douglas Costa, along with Palmeiras goalkeeper Fernando Prass as the other overage stars.
The qualification route for this tournament is based on performances in the preceding youth championships across each continent. As hosts Brazil qualified automatically, and they were joined by fellow South American sides Argentina and Colombia. Argentina won the South American U20 Championship held in Uruguay in 2015, and Colombia qualified via a play off with USA after finishing 2nd in that competition.
The African contingent includes Algeria, Nigeria and South Africa; while Japan, Korean Republic and Iraq qualified in Asia. Fiji booked their ticket to Rio after winning the Oceania qualifying tournament, and CONCACAF qualifying tournament finalists Mexico and Honduras also make the line up.
Europe will be represented by Sweden, who won the European U21 Championship, Denmark, Portugal and Germany.
Odds Against Brazil
Brazil are heavy favourites at a best price of +138 with BoyleSports and although they may look like a standing dish with Neymar, Costa and home advantage, the odds are rather short considering Spain are the only host nation ever to win Olympic gold in 1992. Brazil have never won the competition either, but they did come particularly close last time at London 2012, when they were beaten in the final by Mexico.
Argentina surprisingly failed to qualify for that tournament, but they won the previous two tournaments in Beijing (2008) and Athens (2004). The Argentines are rated a +600 chance with Bet365 and SkyBet to win gold medals, and they are a value call against the short-priced favourites.
After taking a strong squad to what was eventually an unsuccessful Copa America, Argentina are the only country not to select three overage players, taking just two in Real Sociedad keeper Rulli and defender Cuesta, who plys his trade domestically with Independiente. However, this is largely a squad which was successful in the U20 Championships just 18 months ago and boasts the talents of Atletico Madrid’s Correa and West Ham’s Manuel Lanzini.
The four groups pan out as follows:
Group A: Brazil, South Africa, Iraq, Denmark
Group B: Sweden, Colombia, Nigeria, Japan
Group C: Fiji, Korean Republic, Mexico, Germany
Group D: Honduras, Algeria, Portugal, Argentina
If Argentina and Brazil top their groups they would be unable to meet until the final, and of course that involves plenty of ‘what ifs’, but it’s good to know from a betting perspective.
Germany are rated next in the market at a best price of +700 and U21 European Champions Sweden are widely available at +2500 despite that success. Portugal’s senior side just won the European Championship in France, and their young side will be Argentina’s biggest danger in group D. They’re currently +1000 to take Olympic gold.
Brazil have been fortunate to draw two of the rank outsiders in Group A, with South Africa and Iraq considered two of the weakest teams present, and they will surely progress from a weak section. Neymar will be hailed a national hero if he wins the tournament with his country, especially after his difficult time during the World Cup on Brazilian soil just two years ago. After injury ruled him out of the tournament his team went on to suffer semi final humiliation at the hands of Germany, and this is a great opportunity to banish those memories.
But no matter how much is in Brazil’s favour here, backing a team to win an international tournament at prices hovering just above evens is not appealing, and Argentina present a strong value option.
Argentina to win the Men’s Olympic Football Tournament
3rd – 20th August, 2016