The men’s football section of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics got underway on Thursday.
Brazil recorded a 4-2 victory over Germany, France were thrashed 4-1 by Mexico, Argentina were surprisingly beaten 2-0 by Australia and Spain had to settle for a 0-0 draw with Egypt.
Elsewhere, Ivory Coast saw off Saudi Arabia 2-1, host nation Japan defeated South Africa 1-0, Romania beat Honduras 1-0 and New Zealand saw off South Korea with a 1-0 victory.
It was a fairly entertaining opening round, with a number of big-name players on show across the games.
The volume of talented footballers at this year’s Olympics is so great that the most valuable XI is worth an impressive €497m.
That’s pretty darn good when you consider it’s primarily an U23 tournament, with only three overage players allowed per team.
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Let’s take a look at the XI…
GK | Unai Simon (Spain) – €20 million
The Athletic Bilbao goalkeeper was also Spain’s number one at Euro 2020 and he was the country’s hero in the penalty shootout victory over Switzerland at that tournament.
RB | Benjamin Henrichs (Germany) – €12 million
The 23-year-old has represented Germany’s senior team on five occasions and was signed permanently by RB Leipzig back in April.
CB | Diego Carlos (Brazil) – €45 million
One of La Liga’s best centre-backs. It’s a slight surprise that the Sevilla man hasn’t represented his country outside of the Olympic Games.
CB | Pau Torres (Spain) – €50 million
Like Carlos, Torres is up there among La Liga’s finest defenders. The 24-year-old was also part of Spain’s squad for Euro 2020 after his stellar performances for Villarreal in 2020/21.
LB | Marc Cucurella (Spain) – €20m
The former Barcelona man has represented Spain at every level from U16 to senior. Cucurella is capable of playing as either a full-back or a winger.
CM | Franck Kessie (Ivory Coast) – €55m
Kessie scored Ivory Coast’s winner in their first group game versus Saudi Arabia on Thursday. The AC Milan star is a seriously good player and will likely be targeted by Europe’s elite this summer.
CM | Mikel Merino (Spain) – €40m
The Real Sociedad star was surprisingly omitted from Spain’s Euro 2020 squad, but he’s been called up for the Olympics. Merino has improved immeasurably in recent years and is still just 25.
RM | Dani Olmo (Spain) – €50m
Olmo was electric at Euro 2020 and performed magnificently for RB Leipzig in 2020/21, netting seven goals and contributing 12 assists in all competitions. He’s a potential superstar in the making.
CAM | Pedri (Spain) – €80m
It’ll come as no shock to learn that Barcelona’s teenage sensation is the most valuable player at the Olympics. Pedri was named the Young Player of the Tournament at Euro 2020 and he appears to be the long-awaited heir to Andres Iniesta’s throne.
LM | Mikel Oyarzabal (Spain) – €70m
Oyarzabal has been smashing it at Sociedad for some time now. In 2020/21, the 24-year-old scored 11 goals and recorded eight assists in La Liga action. To put it simply, he’s currently one of the best attack-minded players on the planet.
ST | Richarlison (Brazil) – €55m
The Everton man netted a hat-trick in the 4-2 win over Germany on Thursday, becoming the first Premier League player to score a treble in a match at the Olympics. Yeah, he’s pretty good, which is why he’s also a regular for Brazil’s senior team.
That’s a very, very good team and given how many members of Spain’s squad make cut, we’ll be shocked if they don’t at least make the final – despite their 0-0 draw with Egypt.