Alright so basically, in a couple of week’s time, there’s going to be this massive sports day thing in London. It isn’t very important and it’s a ridiculous waste of money, but there are going to be some football matches on, so it isn’t all for nothing.
There is actually a lot of history and tradition regarding football at the Olympics; the tournament at the London Games in 1908 is recognised as the first modern international football competition to have been officially organised. Growing popularity for the sport following the performances of Hector Scarone’s Uruguay in the 1924/28 Games made the need for a separate World Championship obvious – and the first World Cup was held two years later. Since then the Games have seen the likes of Jimmy Hogan’s Austrian Wunderteam, Matt Busby’s Team GB of 1948, Hungary’s Mighty Magyars, Gunnar Nordahl’s Sweden and Pep Guardiola’s Spain (who were victorious on home soil in 1992). More recently the likes of Carlos Tevez, Sergio Aguero and Lionel Messi have all made names for themselves winning gold at the Games in Athens and Beijing.
They have also seen some significant and influential political interference down the years; in 1936 football was re-introduced to the Games by Adolf Hitler who was looking to bankroll his Nazi regime with extra ticket sales. The games also demonstrated the rise of the Communist Bloc, with every winner from 1952 to 1980 being either The Soviet Union or a country of the Warsaw pact. In fewer words, football at the Olympics matters. It’s always going to take a backseat to all that running and jumping and throwing stuff but still, Olympic Football is an important part of sporting folklore in many countries, it’s also an important aid in building for the future, particularly with the South American nations.
What makes a nice change with these games however, is there being a fair amount of interest to be invested, from a Chelsea-fan perspective, with numerous teams and players to look out for…
Some fans were happy to see both David Luiz and Ramires left out of Brazil’s Olympics squad but I was disappointed. The South Americans will be massive favourites to win gold this time around and I would’ve enjoyed seeing the two of them be a part of it. Brazil’s games are still definitely worth a watch though as two of their players having been linked strongly with Chelsea this summer. Porto’s Hulk was one the three over 23 year old players selected by Mano Menezes (with Marcelo Junior and Thiago Silva), his transfer to Chelsea seems to have been 95% complete for almost a month now! Problems with third party ownership in addition to the parsimony of Porto’s president are making this deal seem less likely by the day, although some sources are still expecting it to happen.
Another Brazilian Chelsea have developed more recent links with is Internacional’s Oscar. The 20 year old who scored a hat-trick against Portugal in the U-20 World Cup Final last year, in my eyes deservedly beat the less-reliable and injury prone Paulo Henrique Ganso to the #10 shirt, after some impressive performances in friendlies against Denmark, the USA and especially Argentina. Personally this is one deal I would love to see happen – there is some quality young talent playing in Brazil at the moment, including Ganso, Lucas Moura, Romulo and Leandro Damiao, in my opinion though, apart from Neymar, Oscar is the best of the bunch. His passing range and accuracy in a number of positions, as well as his strength on the ball and straight posture whilst carrying it, have resulted in many comparisons drawn with a young Kaka – the man whose place in the team he looks to have taken off him. He might not be the most well-known of our targets this summer, but if he does sign, he could well end up being the most important.
Another favourite for the gold medal and another team Chelsea fans will definitely be looking out for is the Spanish. The quality of their U-23 team is quite ridiculous, and it is proof the threat that Spain pose at major tournaments isn’t going away anytime soon. The squad that Luis Milla is taking London includes: David De Gea; Barcelona’s Jordi Alba, Cristian Tello & Thiago Alcantara; Bilbao’s Iker Muniain, Ander Herrera and Javi Martinez, as well as Atletico Madrid striker Adrian. The key player for the Spanish though will be are very own #10 Juan Mata, who was a big part of his country’s triumph at the U-21 European Championships last year. It was disappointing not to see more of Mata at the Euros this year, he still managed to impress though, scoring in the final just minutes after he was subbed on. What a time he has had since joining Chelsea last August; Cup Winner, Champions League Winner, European Champion and now potential gold medal winner as well. (Possible Ballon d’or Nominee perhaps?)
Another Chelsea player in the Spanish squad is Oriol Romeu – a player whose likelihood of a future at Chelsea remains as uncertain as ever. I was definitely one of those to jump on the Romeu bandwagon when he first broke the first team; I was so impressed with how he sped up our midfield play. Having only been selected a couple of times under Di Matteo though and whilst it seems he remains behind Mikel, Lampard, Essien, Ramires and Meireles in the pecking order for those two midfield slots, his future at Chelsea does look in some doubt. I retain faith that he still can be a long term Chelsea player, personally I consider the development of Josh McEachran to be more important though.
This is the first time for 40 years that Great Britain has entered a football team into the Olympics and for the majority of the public in Britain, this team is about Ryan Giggs and Craig Bellamy finally getting a chance to compete on the international stage. For me though, Team GB is all about Daniel Sturridge. Ryan Bertrand will also play as first choice left back (having been picked ahead of Arsenal’s Kieran Gibbs) but the tournament obviously doesn’t carry nearly as much importance on his future prospects at Chelsea.
After his relatively disappointing end to the Premier League Season, Sturridge has become a player that, for one reason or another, seems to be struggling to find any patience or understanding from the Chelsea fan base. The news that he is quickly recovering from a case of viral meningitis is of course gratefully received but a lot doubt though still festers as to whether he is capable/deserves to have a future at the club. There’s no denying he isn’t the most munificent forward in the Premier League when it comes to supplying assists, even so, the rate at which opinion of him escalated from mild irritation at his lack of team play, to severe frustration at his blatant selfishness and in some cases even to sheer contempt, is completely remarkable. I admit that a disdain for the player based on his attitude in certain games, wouldn’t be completely unfounded, but still, Chelsea fans who are calling for Sturridge to be sold I think are completely out of their minds. First of all, he is an exceptional talent and is only going to improve. Second of all, it’s ridiculous to assume that Sturridge won’t evolve into more of a team player over the next few years or even months. Over time, attitudes mature, egos become moderated & perspective is obtained – a man’s character isn’t set in stone by the time he’s 22.
The opportunity Sturridge has here to finally play his preferred centre forward role is one he has take. Personally I’d be amazed if Chelsea don’t retain him this summer and keep him on as Torres’ number 2 initially, and as welcome competition for Ramires, Marin, De Bruyne and Hazard on the wings. I still predict Sturridge to be a key part in Chelsea’s season next year, as well as to be a mainstay in the starting XI and eventually in the national team as well, for a long time to come.