With Mexico springing a huge surprise in the final of the London 2012 Men’s Olympic Football Tournament in beating favourites Brazil, we can now look back over the tournament and pick out the players who shone as brightly as an Olympic Gold. While not everyone in tournament football can be a winner, reputations were still enhanced from appearances on the Olympic stage. Here are some of the stand out players from London 2012.
Leandro Damiao (Brazil). Heading into the tournament, all of the hype was surrounding South America’s “Next One” Neymar. But it was Damiao who took the lions share of the plaudits with his performances up front, and finished the tournament as top goalscorer. Damiao scored six goals in the tournament and the 23 year old who is a relative newcomer to the professional scene with Internacional is now being touted as the next Ronaldo. He has netted 24 goals in his short career of 58 games with Internacional and had already made nine senior appearances prior to the Olympics. His Olympic heroics will no doubt have many European sides sizing up a transfer bid.
Neymar (Brazil). The twenty year old has been head hunted by European Champions Chelsea, but with his insistence that he won’t leave Brazil, it may be a good thing for the Premier League side. Pencilled in to be one of the big stars of London 2012, he showed at times just why he is held in such high regard. Incredible control and composure, combined with pace, vision and finishing. However, we only saw it in glimpses. Neymar was overshadowed by Damiao throughout the tournament as a whole. There wasn’t enough consistency from Neymar and his anonymity in the final itself highlighted this. But when he was on song and involved, the genius is there for all to see. Perhaps just not ready quite yet.
Moussa Konate (Senegal). The African side drew a lot of criticism through the Olympic tournament, thanks to their tough physical play. Both Great Britain and Spain were angry at some of the tackling that Senegal were putting out there, but through all the negatives of their reviews, there was a big shining light, and that was striker Moussa Konate. The nineteen year old hit five of Senegal’s six tournament goals, and without him, they would have been seriously lacking. Took his chances well and made a big name for himself in front of goal.
Koo Ja Cheol (South Korea). The Asians took a surprise medal, winning bronze ahead of Japan. A lot of Korea’s good work through the tournament was based on their organised midfield play and being tight at the back. They took a famous win over Spain, and then edged home-side Great Britain out of the tournament in the quarter finals At the heart of the South Korean charge was their captain who did just about everything from his midfield role. Ran the whole side with endless energy, covered the defence and linked up to weigh in most of the best attacking work which they did
Mohamed Aboutrika (Egypt). He probably wins the medal for being the most creative play-maker in the tournament. At least he was the one who was putting on a master-class of how to run the midfield with the ball at your feet. Egypt never really carried enough threat through the Olympics, but the play-making abilities of Aboutrika stood out.
Carlos Salcido (Mexico). There has to be a Mexican on the list with their efforts in winning the gold medal. While Giovanni Dos Santos has to received a honorary mention, veteran Salcido really was the heartbeat of Mexico’s campaign. He was playing out of position in midfield (he is a seasoned defender) but he was the glue of the whole side, picking the ball up from the defence and driving Mexico forward as a unit. Always in control and not afraid to put his foot into a tackle or rouse his troops. A real general on the pitch, and gold probably wouldn’t have happened without his unsung influence.