After tipping up the 11/1 winner of Euro 2020, Jake Pearson returns to provide his outright preview for the Men's Olympics Football.
1pt e.w. France to win gold at 13/2 (Betway 1/3 1,2)
1pt e.w. Japan to win gold at 11/1 (Sky Bet 1/3 1,2)
One major international tournament may have come and gone, but here comes the biggie, the one we’ve really all been waiting for, and the good news is there’s no Team GB representation in the men’s category, so we can just strike some bets, sit back and enjoy the competition, without fear or desolation, despair and more penalty shoot-out woes.
Another plus is the Italians haven’t made it to the Olympics either; good, even though we did tip them for Euro 2020 glory.
The Olympic football tournament runs like any other major international tournament, a group stage, followed by a round of knock-out matches.
There are four groups made up of four teams, the top two of which progress to the quarter-finals, then the semis and concluding with the final.
Players must all have been born on or after January 1, 1997, with the exception of three overage players, who can be any age – as proven by veteran Winston Reid’s inclusion in the New Zealand squad.
The favourites to return home with the gold medal are Spain at a top price of 9/4, and it is easy to see why the bookmakers have them clear at the top of the market; they have the best squad at the tournament.
Eric Garcia and Pau Torres will be their centre-half pairing, a duo that played together in the majority of Spain’s Euro 2020 campaign, while in midfield they have the likes of Dani Ceballos and Marcos Asensio (two of their overage players), as well as Dani Olmo, who impressed at the European Championship, and of course Pedri, who was named Young Player of the Tournament at Euro 2020.
Odds correct at 2200 BST (19/07/2021)
They are worthy favourites and there is an argument to be had that anything bigger than 2/1 could be a good bet, however, their price is based on the quality of players they have at their disposal, and while that may be a huge part of winning a tournament, there are other factors as well, such as the draw.
We saw this summer just how big a difference the draw can make, and unfortunately for Spain, they are certainly in the tougher half.
Group C consists of themselves, Argentina, Egypt and Australia, and while they are fancied to win it with a fair amount of ease, they will then face the winner of Group D, which contains Brazil, Germany, Ivory Coast and Saudi Arabia, in the quarter-final.
In other words, while they are favourites to win the tournament, their group contains the fourth favourites, while in the first knockout round they are likely to meet either the second or fifth favourites, and for this reason, they are probably best avoided.
For the same reason that Spain are not going to be tipped up, so too Brazil should be avoided; in the difficult side of the draw and likely to meet either Spain or arch-rivals Argentina in the quarter-finals.
Brazil have a great record at the Olympics, but despite the return to the international fold of Dani Alves (one of Brazil’s overaged players – if you needed to be told), they just do not represent value.
Germany are interesting contenders, and look a little too big at 11/1. They recently won the Under-21 European Championship, and a lot of the players who played in that tournament are in this squad, but the two players who scored the majority of their goals in that competition, Wolfsburg’s Lukas Nmecha (4) and Bayer Leverkusen’s Florian Wirtz (3), have not been included in their Olympic squad.
That reason, as well as them also being in the difficult half of the draw, makes it easy to pass up.
As explained, teams from groups C and D are probably best avoided, so by that logic, we need to be looking in groups A and B.
The standout name in the top half of the draw is FRANCE, and they are going to be our first outright selection to win the gold medal, well, gold or silver as we are recommending them each-way.
France have undoubtedly had their problems in the lead up to the Olympics, manager Sylvain Ripoll naming 11 new players in the squad after resistance from several clubs to the coach’s initial selection, but they still have plenty of talent at their disposal.
Andre-Pierre Gignac and Florian Thauvin, both of whom play for Tigres in Mexico, will be hoping to use their experience to guide the youngsters, which include two of the stand-out players from the 2019 Under-17 World Cup; Nathanaël Mbuku, who won the Silver Boot with five goals, and Adil Aouchiche, who won the Silver Ball.
France are odds on to top Group A, ahead of Japan, Mexico and South Africa, and that would give them a quarter-final tie against the runners-up of Group B, which consists of South Korea, Romania, Honduras and New Zealand; the weakest group in the competition, and that is not just conjecture – the outright odds imply just an 11% chance that the winner of the tournament comes from Group B.
A victory in the quarters would likely see France face either Spain or Germany in the semi-final, and at that point they are just one game away from the final and the collection of, at minimum, some each-way money.
There is another team who catch the eye at a big price though, and that is the host nation JAPAN, who are available at as big as 11/1 to claim gold.
Maya Yoshida, captain of the Japan national team, and Sampdoria regular, has been included in the squad and will marshal the defence, while Real Madrid’s Takefusa Kubo is another standout name in Hajime Moriyasu’s squad.
As well as having home-field advantage – something that the recent European Championship proved to be a definite advantage – they are also in the “favourable” side of the draw.
In fact, they are in the same group as France, and while it might seem counterintuitive to tip two teams from the same group, there have been cases in past major tournaments of the finalist coming from the same group (Greece v Portugal in Euro 2004 springs immediately to mind).
Japan are second favourites to win Group A, some way clear of Mexico, with a top-two spot looking a mere formality according to the betting, and once out of the group, they will face a quarter-final against a team from Group B.
That match should hold no fears for Moriyasu’s men, who are a nice blend of overseas and domestic players, and a victory could give us two teams in the semi-finals.
Neither France nor Japan are the best in the tournament player for player, but they both have a real chance of going deep in the competition, and their respective prices are too big to pass up.
Odds correct at 1055 BST (20/07/21)
We are committed in our support of safer gambling. Recommended bets are advised to over-18s and we strongly encourage readers to wager only what they can afford to lose.
If you are concerned about your gambling, please call the National Gambling Helpline / GamCare on 0808 8020 133.