Conflict with European season creates Olympic soccer headache

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Usually the occasion that connects an Olympic host metropolis with the remainder of the nation, soccer could possibly be a supply of trepidation reasonably than pleasure in Japan.

Gamers spreading throughout the nation is way from desired as Japan is making an attempt to stage a Video games that limits the dangers of COVID-19 infections spreading.

Of the seven stadiums, 5 are away from the Tokyo space, with Sapporo a couple of 100-minute flight north of the capital.

With crowd sizes restricted, too, Japan’s males gained’t get to expertise the enjoyment of the packed Maracanã that supplied one of many signature moments of the Rio Olympics, when Neymar’s penalty clinched gold for the host nation.

Japan has little pedigree in Olympic males’s soccer, profitable its solely medal — a bronze — on the 1968 Mexico Olympics.

The nation’s most up-to-date brush with glory got here on the 2019 Asian Cup earlier than a shock loss to Qatar within the ultimate. Although males’s soccer squads at this Olympics are largely gamers below the age of 24, Japan isn’t utilizing a youth staff coach for the Olympics. Hajime Moriyasu, who has been accountable for the senior staff since 2018, will coach on the Olympics as effectively.

Moriyasu has opted for versality with gamers who can adapt to totally different roles, together with Kou Itakura, who performs for Dutch membership Groningen at both heart again or midfield. Soma Yuki of Nagoya Grampus can play at fullback on both flank.

“We prioritized gamers who can create alternatives single-handedly, play stable protection on the particular person stage,” Moriyasu stated, ”and make runs for the staff.”

Whereas Kubo Takefusa of Actual Madrid is on the squad, the winger has but to play for the Spanish giants’ first staff and has as a substitute spent intervals on mortgage.

OLYMPICS CLASH

The conflict of the Olympics with the beginning of the European season makes it arduous for groups to typically take their greatest gamers. So, Japan might be with out its largest star. Ahead Takumi Minamino is with Liverpool making an attempt to regain the Premier League title.

Egypt additionally need to have the ability to name on Minamino’s Liverpool teammate Mohamed Salah, particularly given there’s an African Cup of Nations beginning in January. It’s unclear whether or not he’ll have the ability to lead the staff in Japan.

The Egyptians are in a gaggle with Spain, Australia and Argentina. The Olympics is the one main title Lionel Messi has gained with Argentina, on the 2008 Beijing Video games. However the out-of-contract Barcelona ahead shouldn’t be one of many three permitted overage gamers within the Argentina squad at a time when he seems to be to resolve his membership future and has been concerned within the Copa America on this offseason.

WORLD CUP WINNER

France might be seeking to turn into twin Olympic and world champions. Whereas Florian Thauvin has a World Cup winner’s medal from 2018, the winger might be hoping to seem in Japan for greater than the one minute he performed in Russia. He solely got here on on the World Cup in a single recreation as a late substitute for Kylian Mbappé. Although the Paris Saint-Germain star failed to attain in June as France exited the European Championship within the spherical of 16, he will not get an opportunity to shortly make amends given his absence from the Olympic squad.

MANDATORY RELEASE

The one nation the place golf equipment should launch gamers for the Olympics is Spain. Meaning six males from its Euro 2020 staff will get an opportunity to ship Spain’s first soccer gold since 1992, together with senior nationwide staff beginning goalkeeper Unai Simón.

IVORY COAST BACK

The one time the Ivory Coast males have competed on the Olympics was in 2008 after they confronted Messi’s Argentina earlier than going out within the quarterfinals. They are going to be hoping to safe the discharge from Manchester United of Amad Diallo and Franck Kessie from AC Milan. The Ivorians have a fearsome opponents of their group with the defending champions from Brazil, Germany and Saudi Arabia.

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Extra AP Olympics protection: https://apnews.com/hub/2020-tokyo-olympics

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