The guys and girls with huge potential whether or not they're going for gold in three weeks…
While interest in the Olympics footy isn't so strong here with no Team GB this time around, there are still a whole swath of world stars bidding to bag themselves a shiny gold medal. And while the transfer window's open it could even earn one or two players a move.
Here's our list of the stars to keep an eye on, who could become household names following a good tournament, put together by our man on the ground in Rio watching the proceedings.
1. Gabriel Barbosa, Brazil
While Neymar carries the hopes of the host national and fellow Gabriel, Jesus, has grabbed recent headlines by completing a big-money move to Manchester City, it’s the other third of Brazil’s attacking trio who has got the fans most excited. Goals, assists, dribbling ability: Gabigol has the lot. And he doesn’t turn 20 until just after the Olympics. Arsenal have been linked and Barcelona are rumoured to be preparing a bid as we speak. Don’t be surprised to see the already-capped forward follow the man he’s been most likened to, Neymar, out of Santos before the year is out.
— Vince Van Genechten (@VVGenechten) July 30, 2016
2. Takuma Asano, Japan
A talented young striker and very much one for the future
“A talented young striker and very much one for the future.” said Arsene Wenger after Arsenal signed the 21-year-old last month. The diminutive Asano cried after playing his last game for Sanfrecce Hiroshima, where he was named the J-League’s rookie of the year in 2015 having helped the club win the league title. He’ll be weeping again if he joins countryman Ryo Miyaichi in failing to make an impact at the Emirates. The Olympics, where Japan finished fourth four years ago, is the perfect chance to prove he can perform in the spotlight.
3. Max Meyer, Germany
— Bundesliga English (@Bundesliga_EN) March 5, 2016
Germany’s men are appearing in their first Olympic Games football tournament for the first time since 1988 and they are in it to win it, fully aware how valuable age-group experience can be at senior level. The Bender brothers, Lars and Sven, and Euro 2016 regular Matthias Ginter are among those who have full caps, but none are as exciting as Meyer. Even by the standards of Schalke’s conveyor belt of talent, the 20-year-old is some prospect, but he will need to score more goals if he’s to live up to the Lionel Messi comparisons.
4. Kadeisha Buchanan, Canada
Buchanan by name, buccaneering by nature, the all-action centre-back came to international prominence with her displays at the 2015 World Cup, where she was named in FIFA’s all-star team after the host went out at the quarter-final stage against England. The youngster of seven sisters, she described her childhood as “like training with a team in my house”, which explains her combative nature, if not her speed and composure on the ball. Just 20 but with more than 50 caps already, Buchanan will be vital to Canada’s hopes of improving on their bronze medal at London 2012.
5. Hirving Lozano, Mexico
Hirving Lozano pic.twitter.com/863VfKCfYq
— Virinchi (@Vthota111) July 31, 2016
Mexican, not the tallest and linked strongly with Manchester United, but it would be wrong to call Lozano the new Javier Hernandez. The 21-year-old is more provider than poacher – although he chips in with his fair share of goals – usually as an inverted winger, bursting infield from the left onto his favoured right foot. “We will see what happens in the future,” said the man himself recently. A strong tournament for the reigning Olympic champions and Pachuca will be upping his pricetag sharpish.
6. Angel Correa, Argentina
The diminutive Atletico Madrid man can “slip through passes like a playmaker, cross like a winger and finish with the aplomb of centre-forward” – and we’re not talking about Antoine Griezmann. After overcoming a heart problem, Correa saw increasingly more playing time for Diego Simeone’s men last season and could become a key player if the big names continue heading for the exit. More nuggety than the Frenchman, Correa already has three full caps – and we hear there’s a vacancy in Argentina’s senior team. What better platform to prove he’s a contender to fill it than the Greatest Show on Earth?
7. Dhurgham Ismail, Iraq
So good at left-back that Iraq often play him further forward
Iraq already travel to Rio with plenty of goodwill behind them, given what an achievement it is, logistically speaking, for them to have made it even this far. So good at left-back that Iraq often play him further forward, Ismail is one of the few members of the squad to ply his trade in Europe, although Turkish Super Lig club Caykur Rizespor tried to renege on a deal to release him to play in Brazil before FIFA intervened. Named in the Asian Cup team of the tournament in 2015, aged 21, he wouldn’t look out of the place in the Championship or higher.
8. Ellie Carpenter, Australia
— Ellie Carpenter (@CarpenterEllie) August 3, 2016
The first player born this century to play for the Matildas, Carpenter made her senior international debut aged 15 in March against Vietnam (she turned 16 in April). “It’s all a bit surreal,” says the defender, who understandably hasn’t “really been to school all year. For now, football is everything.” “She’s settled in really well,” says goalkeeper Lydia Williams. And with no age restrictions for the women’s competition, Carpenter – who can play right-back or as a central defender – will need to, particularly with global big-hitters Germany and Canada in the Matildas’ group.