Stars of the Olympics

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Football News

Some say football should not be part of the Olympics. London 2012 was a success on so many levels, not least for Great Britain's Olympians, who delivered an impressive 65 medals to finish third in the table.

The whole event created a lifetime of cherished memories for everyone involved, from the spectators to the volunteers, to those that simply watched it on TV, providing the host nation with a feel-good factor that has never been seen before. But, for a sport that is naturally at home on the biggest stage, football, for once, was not the main attraction.

Disappointing quarter-final defeats for both the men's and women's GB sides hardly helped propel the tournament into the spotlight, forcing football to accept its humbling fall from grace.

That's not to say that the spectacle was a complete disaster, though. There were some stars that did shine bright. The men's competition is effectively an Under-23 tournament, with three over-age players allowed in each squad of 18, providing a platform for the world's brightest up-and-coming talents.

Brazil coach Mano Menezes named a very strong squad, including the likes of Santos starlet Neymar, new Chelsea signing Oscar, and in-demand Internacional striker Leandro Damiao, who finished as the tournament's top-scorer with six goals in as many games.

Neymar certainly didn't disappoint, showcasing his creative flair, and potency at every possible opportunity. His most impressive performance came in Brazil's group stage clash against Belarus where the 20-year-old scored a scintillating free-kick, and also turned provider with a cheeky back-heel for Oscar.

Of the Premier League clubs' summer signings that were on show at the Olympics, Oscar looks by far the most exciting prospect. Roberto Di Matteo may face something of a selection headache as he looks to integrate a number of new attacking midfield arrivals, including Eden Hazard and Marko Marin into Chelsea's starting XI.

The Blues moved quickly to secure Oscar's signature, beating a host of top European clubs, including Barcelona and AC Milan, announcing an undisclosed deal had been agreed on July 25, prior to the start of the Olympic football tournament. It already looks to have been a smart piece of business. On recent showings alone, the player's valuation is already on the up.

Damiao could yet follow Oscar's lead, and find himself plying his trade in the Premier League, with Tottenham manager Andre Villas-Boas reportedly edging closer to bringing him to White Hart Lane. Spurs currently only have one recognised striker, Jermain Defoe, and are in desperate need of reinforcements.

Great Britain goalkeeper Jack Butland added to his burgeoning reputation as one of the finest young stoppers in England, with a string of promising performances. He could do little to prevent Stuart Pearce's side from exiting the competition courtesy of a penalty shoot-out defeat to South Korea, but made a collection of fine saves throughout the tournament.

His stand-out display came in GB's 1-0 group stage victory against Uruguay, with the Birmingham City starlet keeping out a forward line that boasted an attacking threat from the likes of Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani.

Butland has received admiring glances from a number of Premier League suitors, despite having never made a first-team appearance for the Championship club, and is set to make his senior England debut in tomorrow night's international friendly against Italy.

Of the other previously unknown entities, Senegal's 19-year-old striker Moussa Konate looked particularly promising, he displayed a touch and presence of mind that could earn him a move to one of the major European leagues. His confidence seemed to grow with every game and scored a late equaliser against Team GB in the opening fixture, before going on to net in each of his country's remaining matches.

South Korea's midfield duo Kim Bo Kyung and Ki Sung Yeung also looked lively. The former, who recently signed for Cardiff City, created two superb chances in the semi-final defeat to Mexico, both of which should have resulted in goals, and could have booked the Korean's place in the Olympic final. Quick, fleet-footed, and full of enterprise, Celtic's Ki enjoyed a solid tournament, and the 23-year-old has, according to reports, caught the eye of Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger.

But, the star of the show was Mexico's Oribe Peralta. His two goals in the final helped defeat Brazil and cemented his place as a national hero. He opened the scoring within seconds of the kick-off, and converted an excellent header for his, and the team's second. Peralta also proved to be the difference in the semi-final victory against Japan. His clever back-heel for Javier Cortez provided a moment of sheer brilliance, creative football at its finest.

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