The marquee group of the Tokyo Olympics men’s soccer tournament, Group D, contains both Rio 2016 finalists. Brazil famously defeated Germany on penalty kicks inside Maracana Stadium to win gold on home soil and exact a form of revenge following Germany’s infamous 7-1 bludgeoning of Brazil at the 2014 FIFA World Cup. This time, it will be the Germans out for payback when the two sides square off on the very first day of the Tokyo 2020 competition.
Regardless of the result of that match, both nations are odds-on favorites to qualify out of Group D into the quarterfinals. However, Cote d’Ivoire is not to be taken lightly. The West African nation advanced out of a difficult group at the Beijing 2008 Olympics, the last time Cote d’Ivoire appeared in the Olympic tournament. Saudi Arabia is making its first Olympics appearance since 1996 and will be expected to struggle.
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, who can provide box-to-box energy and composure on the ball.
Brazil has won a medal of some sort at each of the past three Olympic tournaments. It will likely take a special performance to slow down Andre Jardine’s squad in Japan.
YOUNG PLAYER TO WATCH – Gabriel Martinelli
Plenty of Brazil’s roster fits the mold of a promising young player, but 20-year-old winger Gabriel Martinelli may be the most exciting talent of the bunch. In two seasons with English Premier League club Arsenal he’s shown a knack for scoring great goals in timely moments. In total, he’s struck 12 times for the Gunners in 48 games, including three times in the UEFA Europa League. Martinelli announced himself to the world in 2020 with an equalizing goal in a Premier League match against Chelsea from a 67-yard sprint.
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VETERAN LEADER – Dani Alves
The most successful player in the history of the sport – from a measure of total trophies won – will represent Brazil at the Olympics in defender Dani Alves. The 38-year-old has run the gambit of Europe’s biggest clubs from Sevilla to Barcelona to Juventus to Paris Saint-Germain, racking up a combined 43 pieces of silverware. A handful of those have also come wearing the Canary Yellow for Brazil. He has accumulated 118 caps in total, third-most all time for the Brazilian national team. An Olympic gold medal is among the few accolades Alves does not currently hold, though that may change this summer.
Dani Alves is presented with the Player of the Tournament trophy at the 2019 Copa America
BRAZIL OLYMPIC SQUAD
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)
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.
YOUNG PLAYER TO WATCH – Nadiem Amiri
Attacking midfielder Nadiem Amiri played a key part in Germany’s triumph at the 2017 U-21 Euros, as well as its run to the final of the same tournament in 2019. At 24 years old, he is closer to his prime than many of his Olympic teammates, though the Bayer Leverkusen starter still has plenty of room for growth. While he is capable of scoring goals from midfield, Amiri’s best asset is his ability to pick out teammates in dangerous areas in front of goal with composed, precise passing.
Nadiem Amiri plays for Germany in an international friendly.
VETERAN LEADER – Max Kruse
Journeyman striker Max Kruse, 33, brings his 85 career Bundesliga goals to the German front line. A one-time senior national team player, Kruse last played for Die Mannschaft in 2016. He has bounced between clubs in recent seasons but has maintained a consistent goalscoring rate wherever he has gone. For Germany to meet its perpetually lofty expectations in Japan, Kruse will likely have to be very involved on the score sheet.
GERMANY OLYMPIC SQUAD
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 Ivorians are a dark horse to spoil things 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. The in-demand 24-year-old has already made 48 appearances for the senior national team, debuting in 2014 at age 17.
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.
YOUNG PLAYER TO WATCH – Amad Diallo
Manchester United’s exciting young winger will have just turned 19 when Cote d’Ivoire kicks off in Japan. Raised in Italy from a young age, Diallo progressed through Atalanta’s youth system before transferring to the English Premier League giants in January. Also, this year, Diallo made his debut for the Ivorian senior national team, scoring in a friendly against Burkina Faso. He is a technically gifted, dynamic attacker who can dribble and shoot comfortably with both feet.
VETERAN LEADER – Eric Bailly
Another Ivorian international stationed at Old Trafford, Eric Bailly provides plenty of big game experience at center back for the Olympics-bound Elephants. Bailly has made a total of 66 appearances in the English Premier League for the Red Devils and has amassed 38 caps for the Cote d’Ivoire senior national team since 2015. At 27-years-old, he heads to Japan right in the heart of his prime.
Cote d'Ivoire teammates Amad Diallo (L) and Eric Bailly (R) playing for Manchester United
COTE D’IVOIRE OLYMPIC SQUAD
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)
Saudi Arabia, 2020 AFC U-23 Asia Cup runner-up, is playing with house money at its first Olympic tournament 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. That is to the benefit of Saad Al-Shehri’s Olympic squad, which pulls all 22 players from the SPL.
YOUNG PLAYER TO WATCH – Abdulrahman Gharib
The Saudis have a promising young goal scorer in 24-year-old winger Abdulrahman Gharib. A product of four-time SPL champions Al Ahli, Gharib has scored 11 goals in 70 appearances across all competitions. He has broken into the senior national ranks as well in recent years, scoring once in 12 appearances since debuting in 2018.
VETERAN LEADER – Salem Al-Dawarsi
Both Salem Al-Dawarsi and fellow overage Olympic team player 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.
Salem Al-Dawarsi (Left, #18) celebrates scoring the winning goal in Saudi Arabia's 2-1 win over Egypt at the 2018 FIFA World Cup
SAUDI ARABIA OLYMPIC SQUAD
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),