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Veteran striker Andre-Pierre Gignac will be looking to fire France to a gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics
Veteran striker Andre-Pierre Gignac will be looking to fire France to a gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics

With Euro 2020 and the Copa America claiming the headlines earlier this summer, the small matter of football at the Olympics has largely gone under the radar.

But with some of the world’s hottest prospects combining with three overage players per squad, there will be talent galore chasing gold medal glory.

And we have picked out five players who can make a big impact in the men's football tournament in Tokyo.

Pedri

Fresh from taking the European Championship by storm, teenage sensation Pedri is back for his second attempt at securing international honours this summer.

The 18-year-old midfielder was instrumental in Spain making a surprise run to the semi-finals, topping the charts for goal-creating actions (five) and shot-creating actions (27).

No player made more passes into the final third (68) than the Barcelona youngster and he will be looking to reprise his role of creator-in-chief at the Olympics.

With Unai Simon, Pau Torres, Eric Garcia, Dani Olmo and Mikel Oyarzabal all set to feature again after playing at Euro 2020, Spain will be a force to be reckoned with in Japan.

Barcelona youngster Pedri enjoyed a breakout tournament at Euro 2020
Barcelona youngster Pedri enjoyed a breakout tournament at Euro 2020

Dani Alves

At the opposite end of the age spectrum is 38-year-old Dani Alves, who will certainly bring plenty of trophy-winning experience to Brazil’s squad.

The former Barcelona right-back has won nine major league titles in Europe, as well as eight domestic cups, three Champions Leagues, two UEFA Cups and three Club World Cups — and that is before you factor in his two Copa America triumphs at international level.

Now plying his trade at Sao Paulo, the veteran defender will lead a talented Brazil side featuring Premier League stars Richarlison, Gabriel Martinelli and Douglas Luiz, as well as Lyon midfielder Bruno Guimaraes and Borussia Dortmund's Reinier, who is on loan from Real Madrid. 

Amad Diallo

Manchester United supporters will be paying close attention to the Ivory Coast's matches after head coach Soualiho Haidara called up both Amad Diallo and centre-back Eric Bailly.

Dially, 19, has only seen 267 minutes of action in all competitions since signing from Atalanta for £19million back in January.

But he has made quite an impression in a short space of time, chipping in with a Europa League goal against AC Milan and an assist against Leicester on his Premier League debut.

Big things are expected of Diallo in the years ahead and the Olympics could be the perfect springboard to launch his career at Old Trafford.

It was a Premier League debut to remember for Amad Diallo last season
It was a Premier League debut to remember for Amad Diallo last season

Andre-Pierre Gignac

One of the most fascinating overage selections at the tournament is Andre-Pierre Gignac, who has developed into a prolific goalscorer away from the glare of European eyes.

Now 35, the former Marseille and Toulouse forward is revered in Mexico after six seasons with Tigres UANL that have yielded 128 Liga MX goals and 149 in all competitions.

Gignac won the last of his 36 caps for France back in 2016 and will be desperate to show he still has what it takes to perform on the international stage.

And he is not the only Mexico-based star who could make an impact for France. 

Florian Thauvin teamed up with the striker at Tigres last month and is another of the senior players called upon by head coach Sylvain Ripoll.

Andre-Pierre Gignac has lit up the goalscoring charts since moving to Mexico
Andre-Pierre Gignac has lit up the goalscoring charts since moving to Mexico

Thiago Almada

Argentinian football is littered with players who have been dubbed ‘the new Lionel Messi’ and the latest prospect to be handed that title is Velez Sarsfield creator Thiago Almada.

The attacking midfielder, 20, has played just 52 times for the South American outfit but has already been linked with a move to Europe — and Marseille appear closest to securing his signature.

But with OM reportedly wavering over the £13m fee being demanded by Velez, there is still time for his other suitors to strike.

Almada will be looking to put himself in the shop window in Tokyo, with Manchester United believed to be long-term admirers of the prodigious playmaker.

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21:45 (+00:00)4 Aug 2021 (Wed)