Tokyo 2020 Group B Predictions
South Korea, New Zealand, Romania, and Honduras make Group B the most wide-open of the four pools, and each nation will believe they have a good chance of advancing.
Tokyo 2020 Group B Predictions
Of the four, only South Korea has brought in a medal (an inspiring third-place finish at London 2012), so this tournament will represent a golden opportunity for Group B’s participants to reach new heights.
1) South Korea
Best Result: Bronze at London 2012
Goalkeepers: Song Bum-Keun (Jeonbuk), Ahn Joon-Soo (Busan IPark), An Chan-Gi (Suwon Samsung Bluewings)
Defenders: Lee You-Hyeon (Jeonbuk), Kim Jae-Woo (Daegu FC), Kim Min-Jae (Beijing Guoan), Jeong Tae-Wook (Daegu FC), Seol Young-Woo (Ulsan Hyundai), Kim Jin-Ya (FC Seoul), Kang Yoon-Sung (Jeju United), Lee Sang-Min (Seoul E-Land)
Midfielders: Jeong Seung-Won (Daegu FC), Lee Kang-In (Valencia), Lee Dong-Gyeong (Ulsan Hyundai), Kim Dong-Hyun (Gangwon FC), Won Du-Jae (Ulsan Hyundai), Kim Jin-Kyu (Busan IPark)
Forwards: Kwon Chang-Hoon (Suwon Samsung Bluewings), Song Min-Kyu (Pohang Steelers), Lee Dong-Jun (Ulsan Hyundai), Hwang Ui-Jo (Bordeaux), Um Won-Sang (Gwangju FC)
After winning the 2020 AFC U-23 Championship, South Korea enters the field as the favorite to progress from Group B. Manager Kim Hak-Bum has recalled most of that squad, and he’s made great use of his Over-Age player slots, bringing in a trio of senior national team players.
The one glaring absence from South Korea’s Olympic squad is Tottenham star Son Heung-min. He captains the National team, and he’s scored at the past two World Cups. Son Heung-min is one of South Korea’s most talented players, and his presence could have been polarizing for Hak-Bum’s squad at this tournament.
The head coach decided to bring on Bordeaux’s Hwang Ui-Jo, Suwon’s Kwon Chang-Hoon, and Guoan’s Kim Min-Jae. Hwang will captain the squad, and he brings national team experience, as he’s 14 goals in 36 appearances.
A player to watch is Valencia midfielder Lee Kang-in. The Olympics has served as a coming-out party for a lot of yesterday and today’s stars, and Lee fits the same mold. He earned Player of the Tournament honors at the 2019 FIFA U-20 World Cup, and at just 20 years old, he is the future of South Korean football.
Best Result: Fourth Place at Rio 2016
Goalkeepers: Alex Guity (Olimpia), Michael Perrelo (Real España), Bryan Ramos (Real España)
Defenders: Christopher Melendez (Motagua), Carlos Melendez (Motagua), Wesley Decas (Motagua), Elvin Casildo (Olimpia), Denil Maldonado (Pachuca)
Midfielders: Jonathan Nunez (Motagua), Jose Mario Pinto (Olimpia), Edwin Rodriguez (Olimpia), Jorge Alvarez (Olimpia), Carlos Pineda (Olimpia), Alejandro Reyes (Real España), Rigoberto Rivas (Reggina), Brayan Moya (Primeiro de Agusto)
Forwards: Luis Palma (Vida), Samuel Elvir (Lobos UPNFM), Jorge Benguche (Olimpia), Douglas Martinez (Real Salt Lake), Juan Carlos Obregon (Hartford Athletic)
Honduras’ 2-1 upset over the United States U-23 team landed them a chance to follow up on their best tournament result yet. Manager Miguel Falero has pulled heavily from the top domestic clubs in Liga Nacional, and this will mark their fourth straight appearance at Olympics.
Honduras’ advanced to the Quarterfinals at the Gold Cup, and they hope some of that success will sprinkle onto their Olympic team.
With a few key components choosing to represent Honduras at the Gold Cup, Falero used two of his three Over-Age players slots on Olimpia’s Jorge Benguche and Agusto’s Brayan Moya.
Both players have roles on the National team, and scored goals during CONCACAF Nations League. Center back Denil Maldonado will captain the squad, and his penalty spot against Mexico sent Honduras to the Final at the 2019 Pan-American games.
A young player to watch is Reggina’s Rigoberto Rivas. The former Inter attacking midfielder failed to breakthrough in Milan, but a return to home soil has led to optimism surrounding him at the tournament.
Best Result: 5th Place at Tokyo 1964
Goalkeepers: Mihai Aioani (Farul Constanta), Mihai Popa (Astra Giurgiu), Stefan Tarnovanu (FCSB)
Defenders: Radu Boboc (Farul Constanta), Andrei Chindris (Botosani), Virgil Ghita (Farul Constanta), Ricardo Grigore (Dinamo Bucuresti), Alex Pascanu (Ponferradina), Andrei Ratiu (Villareal), Florin Stefan (Sepsi OSK)
Midfielders: Dragos Nedelcu (FCSB), Tudor Baluta (Brighton & Hove Albion), Marco Dulca (Chindia Targoviste), Marius Marin (Pisa), Andrei Ciobanu (Farul Constanta), Eduard Florescu (Botosani), Ion Gheorghe (Voluntari), Alex Dobre (Dijon), Valentin Gheorghe (Astra Giurgiu), Antonio Sefer (Rapid Bucuresti)
Forwards: George Ganea (Farul Constanta), Andrei Sintean (Hermannstadt)
Romania will enter this tournament as one of the bigger wild cards in the field. This will be their first Olympic appearance since 1964 (also held in Tokyo), and after winning a group that featured powers England, France, and Croatia during the 2019 UEFA U-21 Championships, there’s optimism surrounding what this U-23 team can do this summer.
Manager Mirel Radoi elected against bringing any Over-Age players onto the squad, and it features heavily from Liga 1. U-21 stars Dragos Nedelcu and Valentin Gheorghe will hope to replicate 2019’s success on a bigger stage. Constanta’s George Ganea is the only player in the squad who’s recorded a goal at this level.
4) New Zealand
Best Result: Group Stage at Beijing 2008
Goalkeepers: Michael Woud (Almere City), Jamie Searle (Swansea City), Alex Paulsen (Wellington Phoenix)
Defenders: Michael Boxall (Minnesota United), Liberato Cacace (Sint-Truden), Callan Elliot (Xanthi), Dane Ingham (Newcastle Jets), Nando Pijnaker (Rio Ave), Winston Reid (Brentford), George Stanger (Hamilton Academical), Sam Sutton (Wellington Phoenix)
Midfielders: Joe Bell (Viking), Clayton Lewis (Wellington Phoenix), Marko Stamenic (Copenhagen), Gianni Stensness (Central Coast Mariners), Ben Old (Wellington Phoenix)
Forwards: Joe Champness (Newcastle Jets), Elijah Just (Helsingor), Callum McCowatt (Helsingor), Ben Waine (Wellington Phoenix), Chris Wood (Burnley), Matthew Garbett (Falkenbergs FF)
New Zealand has yet to record a win in an Olympic tournament despite qualifying for two of the previous three competitions. After winning Oceania’s lone Olympic berth in a 2019 qualifying tournament, the All Whites will have a chance to make history in Tokyo.
New Zealand knows international tournament appearances are major, so they’ve called senior national team manager Danny Hay to lead the charge. Hay used one of his Over-Age slots on their country’s second all-time leading scorer, Chris Wood.
The 6’3 forward has been a consistent scoring threat for BPL’s Burnley, scoring ten or more goals in each of the past four seasons. Along with Andre Pierre-Gignac, he enters as one of the more experienced and clinical players in the tournament. His presence alone will make New Zealand a threat to win their first Olympic match ever.
Brentford right back Winston Reid and Minnesota United center back Michael Boxall were selected with the other Over-Age slots. The Wellington Phoenix duo of Clayton Lewis and Ben Waine are likely to make big impacts on the pitch as well. Waine has scored eight goals in seven appearances and should form a very good duo atop the formation with Wood.