The Olympic football has pretty much flown under the radar in the UK until today, with the powerhouses of Brazil, Argentina, Nigeria and, er.... Belgium all in action. Contrary to popular perception, players in the Olympics don't have to be amateur any more, but each team is only allowed to have 3 players over 23 in the squad, therefore creating a very youthful tournament.
Nigeria and Belgium kicked things off this morning, with the African 'Dream Team' easing to a 4-1 victory. It's been a difficult tournament so far for Nigeria's head coach Samson Siasia, as they have shown a pretty lax attitude during the group rounds and a few players needed a toe up their arse. He said:
"When these players go to Europe, they change, they come back here and think that we cannot do without them,"
The same could not be said for either the Argentinian or Brazilian youngsters, who were joined by veterans, such as Ronaldinho and Juan Roman Riquelme. The first half was a fairly uneventful affair, but the game was sparked into life by the excellent Sergio Aguero chesting home a whipped cross, before adding a second with a tap in 10 minutes later. Real Betis's Aguero, playing just ahead of Lionel Messi, had the run of the park during stages of the game, as Brazilian defenders crowded round the 'flea'. At 2-0 up, the Brazilian midfield started to get tetchy, with Andersen and Lucas Leiva jumping into tackles. Lucas and Thiago Neves both saw straight reds for fouls from behind, but not before Riquelme had slotted home a penalty to make it 3-0.
This sets up a rematch of the Atlanta 1996 final, which Nigeria won and also saw Brazil taking bronze in the third place playoff. Many of Nigeria's players from 1996 have gone on to do great things individually, but never reproduced their form for the Super Eagles. Players adorned with gold in Atlanta included Kanu, Jay-Jay Okocha, Celestine Babayaro and Sunday Oliseh. Argentina sported the likes of Roberto Ayala, Javier Zanetti and Hernan Crespo, while the Brazilian lineup included Ronaldo, Dida, Roberto Carlos and Rivaldo, who all played in the successful 1998 and 2002 World Cup teams. It's easy to say that Aguero, Alexandre Pato and Messi will be the real deal in years to come, but it will be interesting to see which other great talents emerge from this contest.