How does it work?
The Olympic football tournament runs just like the World Cup and Euros with a group stage followed by knock-out matches to determine the two teams who play in the final.
It’s a smaller competition than the major international tournaments we love with just four groups made up of four teams. Each team in the group play each other once with the bottom two knocked out and the top two progressing into the quarter-finals and so on.
Interestingly teams can’t just pick anyone to play. Players must all be born on or after the 1st of January 1997 (24 years old or younger basically), with the exception of three players who can be over that age.
Which countries are competing?
Mexico, Japan, South Africa and France
Romania, New Zealand, Honduras and South Korea
Australia, Spain, Egypt and Argentina
Brazil, Ivory Coast, Saudi Arabia and Germany
Outright winner betting tips
Spain are the favourites to win the gold medal at at 9/4 and it’s easy to see why as on paper they have the best squad.
Eric Garcia and Pau Torres will make up the centre-back partnership, a duo who played together throughout the majority of Spain’s Euro 2020 tournament last month where they looked really good, making it all the way to the semi-finals only being beaten by eventual winners Italy.
They also have the likes of Real Madrid players Dani Ceballos and Marcos Asensio (two overage picks) as well as Dani Olmo who was really impressive creatively at the Euros. Can’t forget Barcelona’s Pedri too, who was named Young Player of the Tournament and just looked so good for his age playing at one of the highest levels you can get.
Their group consists of Egypt, Australia and Argentina but don’t worry, Messi is not one of the Argentines overage picks.
The next favourites are Brazil at 3/1. They’ve taken a long Everton’s Richarlison who has since scored a hat-trick in their opening day match as well as Aston Villa’s Douglas Luiz, Ajax winger Antony, Hertha Berlin striker Matheus Cunha and legendary right back Dani Alves who at 38-years-old is still playing club football in Brazil for Sao Paulo.
Brazil won gold at the last Olympic football tournament in Rio 2016 with players like Neymar, Gabriel Jesus, Rafinha and Marquinhos all playing. They do have to play Germany in their group, but six points over Saudi Arabia and the Ivory Coast should be enough to finish in the top two regardless of that game.
Next, your eyes might light up for France at 9/2 but they haven’t taken many recognised faces to warrant a serious contention in my opinion.
Ex Newcastle United flop Florian Thauvin, former Marseille striker Andre-Pierre Gignac who at 35-years-old is fair to say past his best and maybe former Lyon midfielder Lucas Tousart are those who you might recognise.
France under 21’s finished second to Denmark in the Championships last month and were beaten by the Netherlands in the first knockout match. That team included Aouar, Soumare, Upamecano, Konate, Camavinga and Edouard too so it doesn’t fill you with optimism for this squad.
On paper, you would say they have the easiest group with Mexico, Japan and South Africa but they have since lost their first match of the Olympic football tournament to Mexico 4-1 so that just goes to show.
If you want something higher then Germany at 11/1 looks quite big to me. Just last month they won the UEFA Under-21 Euro Championship 2021 and a lot of the players who played those games are in this squad; Maier, Pieper, Schlotterbeck, Raum etc.
Wolfsburg’s Lukas Nmecha and Bayern Leverkusen’s Florian Wirtz haven’t been included in the Olympic squad, however. The duo scored the majority of Germany’s goals for the under 21’s last month (4 and 3 respectively) which might be a key reason why the price is so big.
I reckon Spain will get the better of them in the group stage but again six points from the other two should be enough to see them through to the knockouts.
My outright winner: Spain
Overall I’m siding with Spain to win the gold medal.
The quality of players they have at their disposal at this Olympic football tournament is the best out of anyone at the tournament with six players who just helped their country reach the semi-final of Euro 2020 in the squad.
Pedri, Dani Olmo, Pau Torres, Eric Garcia, Unai Simon and Mikel Oyarzabal are all at manager Luis de la Fuente’s disposal and he can also call upon experienced players Marco Asensio, Dani Ceballos and Mikel Merino when needed.