It would not be altogether surprising if the Men’s Football gold medals from Tokyo go to a team from Group A. France could write another chapter in the rich history of its national team with Olympic bling shining alongside World Cup hardware from 2018. Deep, well-organized national programs like Mexico and Japan could stand to benefit greatly from an U23 format in which European superstars are MIA.
But when it’s all said and done, punters may have a relationship with Group A not unlike the Corleone Family’s relationship with Hyman Roth in The Godfather trilogy. “
Your father Gamblers respected Hyman Roth Group A. Your father Gamblers did business won bets with Hyman Roth on teams from Group A. But your father gamblers never trusted Hyman Roth the teams of Group A!” Not to win the gold medals, anyway.
Group C and Group D are considered the legitimate “Groups of Death” in Men’s Football at the Tokyo Olympics, though Group D is really only half of a G.O.D. with Ivory Coast and Saudi Arabia tagging-along next to the defending champs (Brazil) and Germany. Group C is packed with 2 redoubtable gold medal contenders, Spain and Argentina, and fortified by a pair of popular dark-horse picks in Egypt and Australia.
There are no safeguards in the Summer Olympics soccer bracket against strong teams knocking each other out while lesser sides breeze through easier groups to finish 1st or 2nd. That’s somewhat of a unique scenario for punters to contemplate, since most football competitions have built-in protections against very good teams exiting early, like Euro 2020’s 3rd place Round of 16 qualifiers, or the Football Association Cup’s early-round byes for English clubs playing at the top level.
Weakness will out, of course, throughout the Men’s Football tournament in Tokyo. The IOC’s bracket appears to have been made by someone who assumed all Federations are producing about the same level of quality, but the format can’t stop superior athletes from advancing to the medal round. All it can do is make the Group Stage simple for some Cinderella teams while making it ridiculously hard for other underdogs to qualify.
Whoever emerges from Group C’s opening 2 rounds at the Sapporo Dome with a chance to finish atop the standings will be a fast-shrinking futures bet to win gold on August 7th. Matchday 1’s lineup of fixtures pairs Spain with Egypt and Argentina vs Australia, each match-up giving the group’s upstarts an opportunity to take the driver’s seat while offering 2 aristocrats a chance to send a message – to 15 other football nations and not just 3.
Let’s take a look at DraftKings’ odds on Men’s Football gold medals in Tokyo, with Group C representatives highlighted in bold.
Tokyo Olympics Odds: Men’s Football Outright Winner
Ivory Coast (+2500)
South Korea (+20000)
Saudi Arabia (+30000)
South Africa (+30000)
New Zealand (+100000)
The gap between Mexico and Egypt’s odds to win gold at the Summer Olympics marks a sort of line drawn between contenders and pretenders. But the Mexican and Egyptian U23 squads are quite comparable; each benefits from team cohesion and loyalty in the junior ranks. At least 1 household name from El Tricolor (Ochoa, the goalkeeper) is taking part in Japan, while Mohamad Salah – Egypt’s best-known footballer by at least a factor of 5 – will not be participating in the Summer Olympics. That single angle involving 2 players shouldn’t necessarily make the difference between 30/1 odds and 60/1 odds. Bookmakers clearly haven’t forgotten Egypt’s embarrassing collapse at the 2018 World Cup.
Australia’s “Socceroos” really ought to be getting more futures action for an event like this. Hasn’t the IOC’s worldly qualification bracket already weeded-out dozens of highly-ranked FIFA nations from Europe and South America? Belgium is not competing. Neither is England, Italy, Uruguay, or Portugal. There’s no reason to assume strange outcomes won’t continue to occur as the Olympic tournament reaches a climax, or that Australia and similar teams will suffer from the prohibitive pace disadvantage that the senior ‘Roos face against top-ranked World Cup teams.
Heck, just look at the Olympic medal table for Men’s Football. Nigeria and Cameroon won back-to-back gold representing the African federation in 1996 and 2000. Mexico won the gold medals in 2012. Soccer at the summer Olympic Games is made for Cinderella bids.
How will favored Spain and Argentina deal with a competition that neither side has medaled in for over a decade?
Summer Olympics: Men’s Football Group C Previews
There is still plenty of intrigue around Spain’s Olympic lineup, with many of the nation’s best u23 footballers participating in UEFA’s ongoing Euro 2020 championship. In a typical year, players like defender Eric Garcia, midfielders Dani Olmo and Ferran Torres, as well as striker Pedri would be names to watch out for on the Olympic squad. However, all 4 athletes are currently preparing for Euro quarter finals with the senior Spain National Team, meaning many of the key players who helped Spain clinch a berth in the Summer Olympics by winning the 2019 UEFA U21 Championship likely won’t be part of the team in Tokyo.
Stop-gap duty could fall to key members of the 2021 UEFA U21 Championship squad that was knocked out in the semi finals. Javier Puado scored 3 times in 5 matches, including both goals in an extra-time victory over Croatia in the medal round. Dani Gomez added a pair of tallies in a win over the Czech Republic.
In goal, Spain could turn to Antonio Sivera, who was the starter when La Rojita won the 2015 U19 UEFA title and again when the team earned a U21 championship prior to the pandemic. Spain could also opt to stick with current U21 goalkeeper Álvaro Fernández, who appeared in every match at this year’s U21 tournament.
Tournament Wager: Pass
Argentina will likely be without Alexis Mac Allister for the Olympics, as he was named to the Argentina senior team for Copa America. The Argentines’ leading goal scorer in Q-rounds hasn’t played with the U23 squad since helping secure Argentina’s spot in the Olympics.
Seems like we’ve heard this a lot going into Tokyo, but scoring responsibility will fall to B-flight stars of the U23 program. Adolfo Gaich, who has already scored twice in Argentina’s tune-up friendlies for the Olympics, spent this past season on loan at Benevento of Serie A, where he scored twice in 15 appearances for the Italian club.
Ezequiel Barco adds some space in the midfield for Argentina. The Atlanta United midfielder has scored once in 4 matches this season for the MLS club and also has a goal for Argentina in the warmup matches.
It remains a mystery as to how Argentina will line up at the back, as coach Fernando Batista has played both 3 and 4 across the back at times in front of goalkeeper Jeremías Ledesma. The back line is anchored by captain Nehuén Pérez, who made 26 total appearances for Granada while on loan from Atletico Madrid last season. Hernán De La Fuente should also see plenty of playing time for Argentina as a full back while lining up as more of a wing midfielder in the 3-defender system from Batista.
Tournament Wager: 1-unit Group Winner bet at (+175) or longer odds
Overlook the Egyptians at your own peril. Team Egypt will arrive in Tokyo with as dynamic of a striker partnership as any squad in the tournament. Mostafa Mohamed scored both goals in Egypt’s first of 2 friendly wins over South Africa in June, following a streak of 4 goals in 7 international matches over the previous cycle. Galatasaray’s new forward has scored 8 times in 16 games for the Turkish giants after joining the club on loan in February. He’s paired up top with Ahmed Yasser Rayan, who has scored 5 times in 14 appearances for the U23 squad.
Rayan plays club football for “Cleopatra,” which frankly would inspire anyone to hop to-it.
Buoying the duo will be captain Ramadan Sobhi, who has spent time with the senior national team. Sobhi scored 3 times in Egypt’s triumph at the Africa U23 Cup of Nations and added a penalty kick in the second win over South Africa in June.
Not to be confused with the attacking midfielder, Mohamed Sobhi is Egypt’s goalkeeper in the tournament, having led Egypt to the 2019 Africa U23 Cup of Nations title. Sobhi has kept 6 clean sheets in 11 appearances for the Egyptians and is in his first year as a full-time starter in the Egyptian Premier League.
Tournament Wager: 1/2-unit Group Stage Winner bet
Why exactly are the U23 Socceroos such a long-shot on the Tokyo Olympics betting board? It’s not due to a lack of raw talent. Australia is among a handful of Men’s Football squads in the Summer Olympics with a significant Premier League presence, as EPL clubs negotiate to prevent pricier commodities from risking health at the Olympic Games while steering superstars gently toward new training cycles.
It’s a matter of perceived foul circumstances. Australia is in a “Group of Death,” after all, and could labor to score the number of goals necessary (or once again, the number of goals perceived in advance to be needed) to prevail in a catch-as-catch-can bracket which tests the depth and mental acuity of each U23 squad. It might not be a tournament full of pristine football and 1-0 finishes, but rather an event in which the medal winners make-up for blunders and own-goals with an electrifying attack. Australia is many wonderful things on the international pitch, but the Socceroos will never be the Belgium National Team when it comes to striking.
Nick D’Agostino is the biggest scoring threat for Australia, the team’s leading goal scorer from the AFC U23 Tournament in 2020 that secured Australia a spot in the Olympics. He received permission from his Australian club Perth Glory to join the squad, and apparently there’s less anti-Olympic red tape Down Under than in the UK.
Daniel Arzani has also impressed during the pre-tournament friendlies, scoring twice in a defeat at the hands of Mexico in Australia’s final warmup friendly. Australia also benefits from bringing Ramy Najjarine off the bench as he has generated plenty of chances in his reserve role, including scoring against Ireland in the first match ahead of the Olympics.
Southampton’s Caleb Watts is the dominant offensive presence in the midfield for Australia, while Fulham’s Tyrese Francois is a dynamic defensive midfielder. Francois will be under pressure to contribute all over the pitch as a precious Premier League weapon, but he’ll play a larger part in helping Australia’s leaky defense that surrendered 2 leads to Mexico and allowed a late winner to Ireland.
The Australians will also need to decide on a goalkeeper. Tom Glover – the country’s starter at the AFC U23 Tournament — did not join the “Olyroos” due to a commitment to Melbourne City, and Jordan Holmes and Ashley Maynard-Brewer have split time during fixtures in Glover’s place.
Tournament Wager: Pass
Kurt has authored close to 1000 stories covering football, soccer, basketball, baseball, ice hockey, prize-fighting and the Olympic Games. Kurt posted a 61% win rate on 200+ college and NFL gridiron picks last season. He muses about High School football on social media as The Gridiron Geek.