The men's Olympic football tournament will be one of the most highly anticipated sporting events of the upcoming 2008 Beijing Games.
This year's tournament features three teams from Africa, with Cameroon, Nigeria and the Ivory Coast sending over their young, developing talent in hopes of Olympic glory.
We covered this topic in some depth in an earlier post. Now today, ESPN Soccernet journalist Sulaiman Folarin offers his take on Africa's chances. And really, he's a lot more qualified than I am at this point to offer a worthy opinion ...
Can Africa strike gold? Can the young talent at display in China come up big?
I don't know. I don't see why not ... African teams have won gold two of the last three times.
From my uneducated view, I'd say it's probable.
Folarin is an educated journalist whose opinion I value. He seems to think along the same lines.
Here's a small excerpt of his article. For more, please click here.
Of the three representatives, two teams; Nigeria in 1996 and Cameroon four years later, have finished with a Gold medal. The Ivorians, making their debut appearance this year, will hope to follow them when they send out a young and energetic team for the first game against Argentina.
The West Africans have a few mainstream names, but none in category of the Toure brothers; Kolo and his brother Yaya, and they could certainly use the services of Didier Drogba. But with coach Gerard Gili in charge of the team - a tactician with Ivorian football for over two years at all levels - the young Elephants have the potential to trample their way to the podium at end of the competition.
With the full commitment of young talents like Salomon Kalou pairing with the enterprising playmaker Gervais Yao Kouassi (popularly referred to as Gervinho), the Ivory Coast, up front, will be a threat to teams during the group stages and should be safely through to the knock-out phase.
With key players plying their trade in smaller clubs around Europe, fans should also watch out for Sekou Cisse and Kafoumba Coulibaly; two of the players that exemplify the potential of a team with relatively unfamiliar talent.
There are also the home grown players from some established local clubs; Asec Mimosas and Africa Sports. Both have been known not only to develop quality African players, but also prove themselves as quality opponents in the physical African club competitions.
But you cannot mention anything about physical football without pointing in the direction of Cameroon. The Indomitable Lions parade the most physical team in Africa, and probably the world. This style compliments Cameroon's pattern of play, although the Lions are probably the least skilled of the powerhouses on the continent.