Tokyo 2020: Group D Preview
After meeting each other in a pair of major tournament matchups, Brazil and Germany will be patched together in Group D at Tokyo 2020. Brazil was able to seek revenge at Rio 2016 by avenging the infamous, brutal 7-1 defeat to the Germans with a Gold medal victory. Cote D’Ivoire and Saudi Arabia round out the talented pool.
Best Result: Gold at Rio 2016
Goalkeepers: Brenno (Gremio), Lucao (Vasco de Gama), Santos (Athletico Paranaense)
Defenders: Nino (Fluminense), Ricardo Graca (Vasco de Gama), Guilherme Arana (Atletico Mineiro), Dani Alves (Sao Paulo), Diego Carlos (Sevilla), Abner Vinicius (Athletico Paranaense), Bruno Fuchs (CSKA Moscow)
Midfielders: Matheus Henrique (Gremio), Bruno Guimaraes (Lyon), Douglas Luiz (Aston Villa), Claudinho (Red Bull Bragantino), Reinier (Borussia Dortmund), Douglas Augusto (PAOK), Gabriel Menino (Palmeiras)
Forwards: Gabriel Martinelli (Arsenal), Paulinho (Bayer Leverkusen), Richarlison (Everton), Matheus Cunha (Hertha Berlin), Antony (Ajax)
Rio 2016 was a moment in history for Brazil. The 2014 World Cup loss to Germany was painful, but the revenge served felt so much sweeter.
As ever, Brazil has assembled a deep squad full of exciting young talent to defend its Olympic men’s soccer gold medal. While superstar forward Neymar is not on tap for an Olympic return, his senior national team strike partner Richarlison plans to head to Japan following the 2021 Copa America, where the Everton striker has added to his national team goal tally. Joining Richarlison from the Copa America squad is Aston Villa defensive midfielder Douglas Luiz. Brazil has won a medal of some sort at each of the past three Olympic tournaments.
Andre Jardine has selected a very talented squad, with a mix of domestic-stationed players and a few from Europe’s power 5. Jardine used one of his slots on Brazil legend Dani Alves. The longtime National team right back is one of the most accomplished and decorated players in the world. He was awarded Best Player of the Tournament during the 2019 Copa America, and he was a great use of an over-age slot.
Richarlison’s presence atop the formation will cause opposing teams trouble. Gabriel Martinelli is a name to watch. The 20-year-old winger has netted 12 times in 48 appearances for Arsenal, and he looks like the future of Brazilian football.
Best Result: Silver at Rio 2016
Goalkeepers: Svend Brodersen (FC St. Pauli), Florian Muller (VfB Stuttgart), Luca Plogmann (Werder Bremen)
Defenders: Benjamin Henrichs (RB Leipzig), Amos Pieper (Arminia Bielefeld), David Raum (Greuther Furth), Jordan Torunarigha (Hertha Berlin), Felix Uduokhai (Felix Udoukhai), Keven Schlotterbeck (SC Freiberg)
Midfielders: Nadiem Amiri (Bayer Leverkusen), Maximilian Arnold (VfL Wolfsburg), Ragnar Ache (Eintracht Frankfurt), Ismail Jakobs (FC Koln), Eduard Lowen (FC Augsburg), Arne Maier (Arminia Bielefeld), Anton Stach (Greuther Furth)
Forwards: Max Kruse (Union Berlin), Marco Richter (FC Augsburg), Cedric Teuchert (Union Berlin)
The Rio 2016 silver medalists have stayed local in assembling their Tokyo Olympics squad, as all 22 players ply their trade for clubs in Germany. Manager and former European Championships goal scorer Stefan Kuntz leads the soccer powerhouse nation to its 11th Olympic Games in search of Germany’s first gold medal as a unified nation. Germany finished as runners-up to Spain at the 2019 UEFA European U-21 Championship, earning the nation its spot at the Tokyo Games.
Kuntz brought on former National team forward Max Kruse with one of his Over-Age slots. The journeyman striker will bring his 85 career Bundesliga goals to the German front line. Kruse last played for Die Mannschaft in 2016, and he has bounced between clubs in recent seasons but has maintained a consistent goalscoring threat wherever he has gone. For Germany to meet its lofty expectations in Japan, Kruse will likely have to be very involved on the score sheet.
3) Cote D’Ivoire
Best Result: Quarterfinals at Beijing 2008
Goalkeepers: Eliezer Ira Tape (San Pedro), Maxime Nagoli Oupoh (Sol FC), Nicolas Tie (Vitoria Guimaraes)
Defenders: Kouao Koffi (Vizela), Zie Ouattara (Vitoria Guimaraes), Wilfried Singo (Torino), Eric Bailly (Manchester United), Kouadio-Yves Dalila (Mouscron), Ismael Diallo (Ajaccio), Silas Gnaka (Eupen)
Midfielders: Eboue Kouassi (Genk), Idrissa Doumbia (Huesca), Franck Kessie (Milan), Max Gradel (Sivasspor), Youssouf Dao (Sparta Praha)
Forwards: Chieck Timite (Amiens), Christiane Kouame (Fiorentina), Vakoun Issouf Bayo (Toulouse), Mory Keita (Ursl Vise), Kader Keita (Westerlo), Aboubacar Doumbia (Maccabi Netanya), Amad Diallo (Manchester United)
The Ivorians have a knack for spoiling tournaments, and with the group assembled for Tokyo, it could happen for either Brazil or Germany in Group D. The Elephants have secured the services of several of the nation’s top stars, including Milan midfielder Franck Kessie. Cote d’Ivoire’s Olympic roster is loaded with talent from Europe’s top leagues. Only two players in manager Soualiho Haidara’s squad play domestically in the Ivorian Ligue 1.
Along with Kessie, Man U’s Amad Diallo will be a player to watch. The 19-year-old winger has already made strides in the Premier League and the National team, netting goals for both. His Man U teammate Eric Bailly will serve as a leader and dependable presence on the Ivorian back line. He’s made 66 appearances for the Red Devils and 38 for the National team.
4) Saudi Arabia
Best Result: First Round at Atlanta 1996
Goalkeepers: Zaid Al-Bawardi (Al-Shabab), Mohammed Al Rubaie (Al-Ahli), Amin Bukhari (Al-Ain)
Defenders: Saud Abdulhamid (Al-Ittihad), Abdulelah Al-Amri (Al-Nassr), Khalifah Al-Dawsari (Al-Qadsiah), Yasser Al-Shahrani (Al-Hilal), Hamad Al-Yami (Al-Qadsiah), Abdullah Hassoun (Al-Ahli), Abdulbasit Hindi (Al-Ahli)
Midfielders: Turki Al-Ammar (Al-Shabab), Salman Al-Faraj (Al-Hilal), Yasser Al-Shahrani (Al-Hilal), Ali Al-Hassan (Al-Nassr), Ayman Al-Khulaif (Al-Wehda), Sami Al-Najei (Al-Nassr), Nasser Al-Omran (Al-Shabab), Mukhtar Ali (Al-Nassr), Abdulrahman Ghareeb (Al-Ahli)
Forwards: Abdullah Al-Hamdan (Al-Hilal), Salem Al-Dawsari (Al-Hilal), Ayman Yahya (Al-Nassr)
Saudi Arabia, 2020 AFC U-23 Asia Cup runner-up, is making its first Olympic tournament appearance in a quarter-century. It comes three years following a senior national team appearance at the 2018 FIFA World Cup, perhaps signaling the start of a promising era of soccer for the Saudis. The country’s top domestic league, the Saudi Professional League, has continued to improve in recent years, and Saad Al-Shehri’s Olympic squad pulls all 22 players from the SPL.
Both Salem Al-Dawarsi and Salman Al-Faraj scored for Saudi Arabia in its lone victory at the 2018 World Cup, a 2-1 group stage win over Egypt. It was Salem’s goal in the 90th minute to give the Saudi’s all three points, just one of his 15 goals for his country in 56 appearances. Salem, 29, has played his entire career with the most successful club in Saudi Arabia, Al-Hilal, and he is their best threat at the tournament.