Tokyo 2020 Group A Predictions | A Closer Look
We’ve been blessed by a barrage of international football this summer, and now we get to receive two more weeks. As if Euro 2020, Copa America, and the Gold Cup, the Olympics are here.
Group A contains a pair of powers and a couple of teams with success in this tournament. France has dealt with a group of death this summer, but things may be a bit easier this time around.
The French struck out early after having to go through Portugal and Germany in group stages and blowing a 3-1 lead against Switzerland in the knockout stage. The early exit was a letdown for the defending champs, and bringing in a medal this summer could make things better.
Tokyo 2020 Group A Predictions
Mexico will join France in Group A, after dominating the Gold Cup group stages, they will hope some of that momentum carries from their National team to their Olympic team over to Tokyo. They made great use of their Over-Age slots, and they appear to be among the favorites. Group A also features host nation Japan and South Africa.
- Best Result: Gold at Los Angeles 1984
Goalkeepers: Paul Bernardoni (Angers), Stefan Bajic (Saint-Etienne), Dimitry Bertaud (Montpellier)
Defenders: Melvin Bard (Olympique Lyonnais), Anthony Caci (Strasbourg), Ismael Doukoure (Valenciennes), Pierre Kalulu (AC Milan), Clement Michelin (Lens), Timothee Pembele (Paris Saint-Germain), Modibo Sagnan (Real Sociedad)
Midfielders: Alexis Beka Beka (Caen), Jeremy Gélin (Stade Rennais), Enzo Le Fee (FC Lorient), Téji Savanier (Montpellier), Florian Thauvin (Tigres UANL), Lucas Tousart (Hertha Berlin)
Forwards: André-Pierre Gignac (Tigres UANL), Randal Kolo Muani (FC Nantes), Isaac Lihadji (Lille), Nathanael Mbuku (Reims), Arnaud Nordin (Saint-Etienne)
The defending World Cup champions hope to avenge a heartbreaking exit from Euro 2020 with a great showing in Tokyo. The Olympics will offer a glimpse of the next generation of French talent, and it will not feature PSG’s 22-year-old phenom Kylian Mbappe.
Manager Sylvain Ripoll has pulled heavily from France’s Ligue 1, and he used his three Over-Age slots on former national team players Florian Thauvin and André-Pierre Gignac, and Montpellier midfielder Teji Savanier.
Bringing on the Tigres duo of Thauvin and Gignac after their exclusions from the Euro 2020 squad was a no-brainer. Thauvin was a part of the 2018 World Cup-winning team, and he scored during Euro 2020 Qualifiers.
The former Marseille stud is still in the prime of his career and should be a focal point of the attack. Gignac will captain the Olympic team this summer after Karim Benzema’s presence prevented a return to the National squad for the powerful striker.
Gignac was in Didier Deschamps’ Euro 2016 squad, where the host France almost lifted the trophy. Gignac nearly secured the title for the French after coming on for Olivier Giroud, but they’d lose to Portugal in extra time.
The longtime Tigres forward has remained in terrific form, scoring 20 or more goals in each of his six seasons with the team, and he was awarded the Golden Boot at the 2020 CONCACAF Champions League. Savanier will represent France for the first time, and he led Ligue 1 in assists with 14, while was only surpassed by Eden Hazard in Europe’s Power 5.
- Best Result: Gold at London 2012
Goalkeepers: Guillermo Ochoa (América), Luis Malagon (Necaxa), Sebastian Jurado (Cruz Azul)
Defenders: Erick Aguirre (Pachuca), Alberto Angulo (Atlas), Gerardo Arteaga (Genk), Cesar Montes (Monterrey), Jorge Sanchez (América), Johan Vasquez (UNAM)
Midfielders: Roberto Alvarado (Cruz Azul), Ricardo Angulo (Guadalajara), Uriel Antuna (Guadalajara), Fernando Beltran (Guadalajara), Sebastian Cordova (América), Jose Joaquin Esquivel (Juarez), Diego Lainez (Real Betis), Carlos Rodriguez (Monterrey), Luis Romo (Cruz Azul)
Forwards: Eduardo Aguirre (Santos Laguna), Henry Martin (América), Alexis Vega (Guadalajara)
After winning their first Olympic soccer gold medal in a dramatic final against Brazil, Mexico would bow out at the group stages in Rio 2016. El Tri joins Japan, Honduras, and Brazil as the other four nations to appear in each of the past three Olympic tournaments, and they will look to avenge their early exit by winning a sneaky tough Group A.
All but two members of Jaime Lozano’s 2021 squad play their club soccer domestically in Liga MX. The inclusion of goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa will give Mexico the tournament’s most experienced keeper.
Ochoa was included in the 2004 Olympic team but this will be his first appearance on this stage. Ochoa starred at the 2014 World Cup, earning praise for his timely saves against Brazil and the Netherlands. The Club America keeper has made 114 caps for the national team, and his presence will be a pleasure for El Tri.
Betis winger Diego Lainez also elected to forgo the Gold Cup tournament and play for the Olympic team. The 21-year-old has already scored three goals in 14 appearances for the national team, and Tokyo could be a coming-out party for the young speedster. Manager Jaime Lozano used his other two over-age player slots on Club America’s Henry Martin and Cruz Azul’s Luis Romo.
- Best Result: 4th at London 2012
Goalkeepers: Keisuke Osako (Sanfrecce Hiroshima), Kosei Tani (Shonan Bellmare), Zion Suzuki (Urawa Red Diamonds)
Defenders: Maya Yoshida (Sampdoria), Hiroki Sakai (Urawa Reds), Kou Itakura (Groningen), Yuta Nakayama (PEC Zwolle), Reo Hatate (Kawasaki Frontale), Takehiro Tomiyasu (Bologna), Daiki Hashioka (Sint-Truiden), Koki Machida (Kashima Antlers), Ayumu Seko (Cerezo Osaka)
Midfielders: Wataru Endo (Stuttgart), Yuki Soma (Nagoya Grampus), Koji Miyoshi (Antwerp), Kaoru Mitoma (Kawasaki Frontale), Ritsu Doan (PSV Eindhoven), Ao Tanaka (Kawasaki Frontale), Takefusa Kubo (Real Madrid)
Forwards: Daizen Maeda (Yokohama F Marinos), Ayase Ueda (Kashima Antlers), Daichi Hayashi (Sagan Tosu)
As the host nation, Japan didn’t have to qualify for the Olympic tournament. They’ve kept themselves busy regardless, hosting four tale-telling friendlies in 2021. Japan was able to defeat Argentina, Ghana, and Jamaica, and they look like they’re going to give France and Mexico a run on their home turf. They begin their Olympic campaign against South Africa in a Group A clash at Tokyo Stadium on July 22.
The hosts will be without 26-year-old midfielder Takumi Minamino who wasn’t given release by his club, Liverpool FC , but Japan still boasts a talented squad deep with talent stationed across Europe’s top leagues. Real Madrid’s Takefusa Kubo is a name to watch this summer.
The ankle-breaking 20-year-old is entering an important period in his club future, and a big tournament here could open the door for more playing time at Real. Head coach Hajime Moriyasu used his three Over-Age player slots on Hiroki Sakai, Wataro Endu, and Maya Yoshida, who will captain the host in the tournament.
4) South Africa
- Best Result: Group Stage at Sydney 2000
Goalkeepers: Ronwen Williams (SuperSport United), Mondli Mpoto (Bloemfontein Celtic), Sifiso Mlungwana (Golden Arrows)
Defenders: Katlego Mohamme (Pretoria), Luke Fleurs (SuperSport United), Sibusiso Mabiliso (AmaZulu FC), Abbubaker Mobara (Cape Town City FC), Thabiso Monyane (Orlando Pirates), Tercious Malepe (FK Minaj)
Midfielders: Teboho Mokoena (SuperSport United), Thabo Cele (Cova Piedade), Nkosingiphile Ngcobo (Kaizer Chiefs), Sipho Mbule (SuperSport United), Goodman Mosele (Orlando Pirates), Kamohelo Mahlatsi (Swallows FC)
Forwards: Fagrie Lakay (Cape Town City FC), Luther Singh (SC Braga), Evidence Makgopa (Baroka FC), Lyle Foster (Vitoria Guimaraes), Kobamelo Kodisang (SC Braga B)
South Africa placed third at the 2019 Africa U-23 Cup of Nations to qualify for a second consecutive Olympic Games. At Rio 2016, they exited in the group stage after failing to win any of their three games.
Manager David Notoane will hope for a better showing from his squad in Japan, and one or two upset victories in a difficult Group A could bring the South Africans instant notoriety.
Notoane’s squad mainly comes from the South African Premier Division, but if they expect to secure any points, Luther Singh will have to make his presence felt. The Braga forward will play a vital role for his country at this tournament, as he represents their best-attacking threat. Notoane only used one Over-Age player spot, which went to SuperSport keeper Ronwen Williams.