Group D

Thursday, July 26

Spain v Japan (12.00, Glasgow)
Honduras v Morocco (14.45, Glasgow)

Sunday, July 29
Spain v Honduras (17.00, Newcastle)
Japan v Morocco (19.45, Newcastle)

Wednesday, August 1
Japan v Honduras (17.00, Coventry)
Spain v Morocco (17.00, Manchester)

Spain

Spain flagSpain’s Olympic squad will be made up entirely of players who won the last European Under-21 Championship, played in Denmark in 2011. The team that triumphed over Switzerland in the Final included the likes of Juan Mata, Javi Martinez, Iker Muniain and Thiago Alcantara – all of whom have since progressed to the senior Spain side, although Thiago missed Euro 2012 through injury and may not be ready in time for the Olympics.

Such is Spain’s strength in depth that the only over-age players who coach Luis Milla will include in his 18-man squad will be those who featured in the under-21 triumph, such as Mata, who is now 24.

Milla has coached this generation of players from under-19 level through to the current under-23 side that will compete in London. In addition to those players who have stepped up to the senior side, the Olympic squad is likely to include talents such as Barcelona winger Cristian Tello, Chelsea midfielder Oriol Romeu and Ander Herrera of Athletic Bilbao.

Spain have a proud record in Olympic football. They won the gold medal at the 1992 Games in Barcelona, where Kiko’s 90th-minute goal sealed a 3-2 victory over Poland in the Final. In 2000, a side featuring Xavi and Carles Puyol lost to Cameroon in the Final. They will be much fancied to come through a group containing Honduras, Japan and Morocco, and from there, the gold medal is a realistic ambition.

The coach

A former Spain midfielder (three caps) who played for Barcelona and Real Madrid, Luis Milla began his coaching career as an assistant at Getafe before joining the Spanish federation and working his way through the age groups.

Key Players

Chelsea midfielder Juan Mata is keen to play in London, although at the age of 24 he needed the permission of his club, while Manchester United keeper David De Gea won the European Under-21 title in 2011 and is already an experienced campaigner. In addition to Juan Mata there are two Euro 2012 winners in Jordi Alba (scorer of the second goal in the final) and Javi Martinez.

Midfielder Ander Herrera scored the opening goal in the European Under-21 Final against Switzerland last summer and was one of the stars of Athletic Bilbao’s run to the 2012 Europa League Final. He is likely to be included, along with club-mate Iker Muniain.

Striker Adrian was one of the stars of the Atletico Madrid team which beat Bilbao in the Europa League Final last season and recently made his senior Spain debut.

Squad:
Goalkeepers

1 David DE GEA
18 Diego MARINO

Defenders
2 Cesar AZPILICUETA
3 Alvaro DOMINGUEZ
6 Jordi ALBA
12 Martin MONTOYA
13 Alberto BOTIA

Midfielders
4 Javier MARTINEZ
5 Inigo MARTINEZ
8 Iker MUNIAIN
11 KOKE
14 Oriol ROMEU
15 ISCO
17 Ander HERRERA

Forwards
7 ADRIAN LOPEZ
9 RODRIGO
10 Juan MATA
16 Cristian TELLO

Coach
Luis MILLA

By John Holmesdale

 

Japan

JapanThis is a good generation for Japan and quite a few of the squad are already, or will soon be, playing top-level football in Europe, including Takashi Usami (at Bayern Munich last year, now Hoffenheim), Hiroshi Kiyotake (Nuremberg), Hiroki Sakai (just transferred to Hanover), Yuki Otsu (Borussia Monchengladbach) and Ryo Miyaichi (Arsenal and Bolton Wanderers). Maya Yoshida (VVV Venlo in Holland) is already a fixture in Alberto Zaccheroni’s national-team back line.

The most lauded player of this generation, Shinji Kagawa, did not feature in the provisional list following his transfer to Manchester United but even without him this is a squad with several players clearly in the picture for Brazil in 2014.

Coach Takashi Sekizuka mostly had to make do with Japan-based players during the Asian qualifiers and at the preparatory Toulon tournament he was missing several likely members who were on World Cup qualifying duty, so there will be a lot of interest to see how the team comes together in London, their fifth consecutive Olympic football tournament.

Bronze medallists in Mexico in 1968, Japan’s best performance to date in the under-23 Olympic era was a quarter-final place in 2000. There is no reason why they should not aim as high again.

The coach

Takashi Sekizuka made his mark in transforming Kawasaki Frontale from a division two team into one of the powerhouses of J.League football with a high-pressure, counter-attacking game.

Key Players

Maya Yoshida is an imposing figure in the back line, excellent with his feet as well as in the air with fine positioning sense. He is already a regular with the senior side.

Full-back Hiroki Sakai was a major factor in Kashiwa Reysol’s J.League championship last year. He loves to power down the right and crosses superbly. Newly inducted to the national team.

Hiroshi Kiyotake is now following in Shinji Kagawa’s footsteps from Cerezo Osaka to Germany and offers many of the same qualities as a lively attacking midfielder with an instinct for goal.

Creative attacking midfielder Takashi Usami was on the Bayern Munich bench at this year’s Champions League Final. He debuted in the Asian Champions League at 17, has grown fast and will be keen to be noticed in London.

Squad:
Goalkeepers

1 Shuichi GONDA
18 Shunsuke ANDO

Defenders
2 Yuhei TOKUNAGA
4 Hiroki SAKAI
5 Maya YOSHIDA
8 Kazuya YAMAMURA
12 Gotoku SAKAI
13 Daisuke SUZUKI

Midfielders
3 Takahiro OHGIHARA
6 Taisuke MURAMATSU
10 Keigo HIGASHI
14 Takashi USAMI
16 Hotaru YAMAGUCHI
17 Hiroshi KIYOTAKE

Forwards
7 Yuki OTSU
9 Kenyu SUGIMOTO
11 Kensuke NAGAI
15 Manabu SAITO

Coach
Takashi SEKIZUKA

By Mike Plastow

 

 Honduras

Honduras have taken part in three of the last four Olympics – which is a surprise because they usually have to fight against regional giants Mexico and United States for one of CONCACAF’s two berths. This time, they qualified after narrowly beating an El Salvador side who had already ousted the Americans.

Doubts exist over whether they can make an impression in London or, as is more likely, they will repeat their whipping-boys performance of Beijing in 2008, where they lost all three matches and failed to score a single goal.

Although they lack flair, the Hondurans are a very physical side. While that could be an asset in the CONCACAF qualifiers, it’s definitely a handicap against the sort of well-prepared sides that they are likely to face this summer.

The Coach

Luis Fernando Suarez is a respected Colombian coach whose main achievement was to take Ecuador to the second round of the World Cup in 2006 and who doubles up as coach of the senior international team. A motivator rather than a refined tactician.

Key Players

Maynor Figueroa plays as a centre-back for the senior team and will be one of the over-23 reinforcements for the Olympics. Fast and powerful, he’s the highest-profile player of the team.

Emilio Izaguirre is another of the over-23 reinforcements, his presence was still in doubt as Celtic will need him for the Champions League qualifiers.

Andy Najar was named MLS Rookie of the Season in 2010. The 19 year-old winger will be a threat to opposing left backs.

Diminutive striker Roger Rojas has excellent movement and is a strong finisher. Probably the squad’s most talented under-23 player.

Squad:
Goalkeepers

1 Jose MENDOZA
18 Francisco REYES

Defenders
2 Wilmer CRISANTO
3 Maynor FIGUEROA
4 Hilder COLON
5 Jose VELASQUEZ
16 Johnny LEVERON

Midfielders
6 Arnold PERALTA
7 Mario MARTINEZ
8 Alfredo MEJIA
10 Alexander LOPEZ
12 Orlin PERALTA
14 Andy NAJAR
15 Roger ESPINOZA
17 Luis GARRIDO

Forwards
9 Antony LOZANO
11 Jerry BENGTSON
13 Eddie HERNANDEZ

Coach
Luis SUAREZ

By Martin del Palacio Langer

 

Morocco

Morocco dipped heavily into the Diaspora to put together a side to qualify for the Olympics, but they also benefited from the unrest in Egypt last year. The security situation in Cairo meant the African Under-23 Championship was moved to Morocco, which they turned to their advantage.

They suffered a surprise defeat in the Final to Gabon but by then had already made sure of their place at the London Games.

Pim Verbeek left his job as Australia coach after the 2010 World Cup to become technical director of the Morocco federation and oversee the Olympic bid. Using his Dutch connections he has packed the squad full of talent from the lowlands, including recently persuading sought-after Omar El Kaddouri to throw in his lot with Morocco after previously playing for Belgium under-21s.

Verbeek has left out Adel Taarabt, whose mercurial temperament and inconsistent performances make him too much of a liability in an 18-man squad.

The coach

Pim Verbeek coached Australia at the 2010 World Cup and was also South Korea’s assistant under Guus Hiddink and later Dick Advocaat.

 Key Players

Younes Belhanda was one of the top players in Ligue 1 last season, helping Montpellier to their first French championship.

Abdelhamid El Kaoutari, a former France Under-19 defender, and another Montpellier star.

Zakaria Labyad, a teenage prodigy who was born in Holland and is the subject of a transfer wrangle between PSV Eindhoven and Sporting Lisbon.

Yacine Qasmi is a striker who started at Paris Saint-Germain and Rennes but has not played at a senior level for club or country.

Squad:
Goalkeepers

1 Mohamed AMSIF
18 Yassine BOUNOU

Defenders
2 Abdelatif NOUSSIR
3 Mohamed ABARHOUN
4 Abdelhamid EL KAOUTARI
5 Zakarya BERGDICH
13 Zouhair FEDDAL
16 Yassine JEBBOUR

Midfielders
6 Imad NAJAH
8 Driss FETTOUHI
10 Abdelaziz BARRADA
12 Omar EL KADDOURI
14 Houssine KHARJA
15 Rayan FRIKECHE

Forwards
7 Zakaria LABYAD
9 Noureddine AMRABAT
11 Soufiane BIDAOUI
17 Soufian EL HASSNAOUI

Coach
Pim VERBEEK

By Mark Gleeson