Clash with European season creates puzzle for Olympic football

Often the event that connects an Olympic host city to the rest of the nation, football could be a source of dread rather than excitement in Japan. The spread of players across the country is far from desired as Japan tries to host Games that limit the risks of the spread of Covid-19 infections.

Of the seven stadiums, five are far from the Tokyo area, with Sapporo being about a 100-minute flight north of the capital. With crowds tight as well, Japan’s men won’t be able to feel the joy of the crowded Maracana that provided one of the iconic moments of the Rio Olympics, when Neymar’s penalty won gold for the host nation. Japan has little pedigree in men’s Olympic football, winning their only medal – a bronze medal – at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics. The country’s most recent stroke of glory came in the 2019 Asian Cup before a surprise loss against Qatar in the final. Even though the men’s soccer teams at these Olympics are predominantly under 24 players, Japan does not use a youth team coach for the Olympics. Moriyasu has gone for versatility with players able to adapt to different roles, including Kou Itakura, who plays for Dutch club Groningen as center-back or midfielder. Nagoya Grampus’ Soma Yuki can play from the back on either flank.

OLYMPIC CLASH

The shock of the Olympics with the start of the European season makes it difficult for teams to often take their best players. Thus, Japan will be deprived of its biggest star. Forward Takumi Minamino is with Liverpool in an attempt to regain the Premier League title.

Egypt also want to be able to call on Minamino’s teammate at Liverpool, Mohamed Salah, especially since there is an Africa Cup of Nations starting in January. It is not known if he will be able to lead the team in Japan.

The Egyptians are in a group with Spain, Australia and Argentina. The Olympics are the only major title won by Lionel Messi with Argentina at the 2008 Beijing Games. But the Barcelona striker at the end of his contract is not one of the three major players allowed in the Argentina team. at a time when he is looking to figure out the future of his club and has been involved in the Copa America during this offseason.

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