I end my preview for the olympics here with a look at the final group-Group D
Nations: Honduras, Japan, Morocco, Spain
July 26 – Spain vs. Japan (11:45 a.m. ET; Hampden Park, Glasgow)
July 26 – Honduras vs. Morocco (7 a.m. ET; Hampden Park, Glasgow)
July 29 – Spain vs. Honduras (2:45 p.m. ET; St. James Park, Newcastle)
July 29 – Japan vs. Morocco (12 p.m. ET; St. James Park, Newcastle)
Aug. 1 – Japan vs. Honduras (12 p.m. ET; City of Coventry Stadium, Coventry)
Aug. 1 – Spain vs. Morocco (12 p.m. ET; Old Trafford, Manchester)
Spain : Spain comes into this match having qualified as winners of the UEFA U21 European Championships, and their U23 side will be looking to add Olympic Gold to the success the Senior side winning that have won three consecutive championship (2008 Euro, 2010 World Cup, 2012 Euro). Coach Luis Milla has a squad full of skilled young players that have gathered a lot of experience at club level both within Spain at clubs like Barcelona, Athletic Bilbao and Atletico Madrid as well as top teams around Europe, it will be interesting to see how this recent success will carry over to this team albeit a completely different squad.
Squad Profile : The most important player of the squad is undoubtedly Juan Mata of Chelsea who is the current holder of the world cup, euro cup,junior world cup, UEFA champions league and F.A.Cup. He will be at the heart of Spain’s attack in London. He is one of the 3 over aged players on the squad.
Another over aged player is Jordi Alba who won praise at Euro 2012 for both his coverage at left back and dangerous runs forward, one of which was capped by a goal in Spain’s SCORE win in the final.
The other important players are Jordi Alba,Cristian Tello, Adrian Lopez,Romeu and David De Gea.
The play of Adrian Lopez is particularly vital he was key in the lead up to the tournament and has proven himself to be a good goal scorer.
Prediction : Handed an easy group and they should be able to top it without much problems. Their main aim will be to win a medal and are 1 of the top 4 teams pipped to win the tournament along with Brazil,Gb and Uruguay.
Japan qualified for the Olympics as winners of their qualifying group; the group consisted of Bahrain, Malaysia and Syria. Japan are a team that could give some of the other participants some problems due to their technical style and the fact that many of their players are now staring in league across Europe, it will be interesting to see is some of their stars get released from their clubs or which over aged players they select.
Squad Profile : Kensuke Nagai is the Japanese Under-23’s leading scorer with nine goals in 13 matches dating back to the start of Olympic qualifying. One player they will miss is newly acquired Manchester United forward ShijiKagawa, as the Japanese FA has decided to give him the summer off to rest.
The other key players for Coach Takashi Sekizuka are TSG Hoffenheim’s Takashi Usami and Borussia Monchengladbach’s Yuki Otsu, although Usami never really got a consistent chance when on loan with Bayern Munich in his short time in Germany he’s shown what he can do in flashes and will be a vital playmaker and creative option.
Prediction : The will make it to the next round but any further progression is unlikely.
This is Honduras’ third time at the Olympics and they qualified after winning three and losing two games at the Concacaf U23 Championships, the key match being the 3-2 victory against El Salvador in the semi-finals before losing to Mexico in the final.
Squad Profile : Their attack is led by Roger Rojas and Eddie Hernandez. Nicknamed Los Catrachos.
Coach Luis Fernando Suárez will be looking to the likes of Sporting KC midfielder Roger Espinoza to provide leadership and stability while DC United midfielder Andy Najar will be playing alongside him.
Prediction : Group Stage. They are not strong enough to get any points from Brazil or Japan.
Morocco have made it to this stage on six previous occasions but have only once got past the group stage. They qualified this time by reaching the final of last year’s CAF African U23 Championship, where they lost to Gabon.
Squad Profile : Houssine Kharja captained Morocco’s senior national team at the 2012 African Nation’s Cup, and brings a wealth of top flight experience from years spent playing in Serie A. They will miss Arsenal’s Chamakh.
Prediction : Group stage. It will be very tough for them to go any further but the match against Hondorus will decide who finishes third.