Rio 2016 Olympics: Five footballers who could steal the show

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With the men's football set to begin at the 2016 Summer Olympics on Thursday evening, the whole world will have their attention focused on whether Neymar can inspire Brazil to win gold in Rio.

The Barcelona star is undoubtedly one of the biggest names taking part and, with the tournament taking place in his home country, the pressure will be on.

But it isn't all about the established names like Neymar. Here we look at the five players who could use this tournament as a springboard to thrust themselves into the limelight.


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Renato Augusto | Brazil

Brazil are favourites going into the tournament and, after a poor showing in the Copa America earlier in the summer, the home crowd will be expecting the Canarinho to go all the way.

While the world's media is likely to focus its attention on Neymar, his supporting cast is going to have to play its part to realise the dream of Olympic gold.

Renato Augusto is one of Brazil's designated over-age players and he will bring a wealth of experience with him. 

Currently plying his trade with Beijing Guoan F.C, the 28-year-old has previously played in the Bundesliga with Bayer Leverkusen where he quickly built up a rapport with the fans who enjoyed his attacking style of play. 

He is well known for his dribbling and creative passing, but, unfortunately, his career has been plagued with injuries and this was the main cause for a premature return to his native Brazil with Corinthians in 2013.

It was at Corinthians where he has slowly rebuilt his career, managing to return to fitness and, in the 2015 season, he helped guide them to their first title since 2011, going on to be awarded the Bola de Ouro (Player of the Year Award) for his contribution to the team in this campaign. 

Following this triumph, he has taken his career to China to attempt to add more silverware to his to name in a league which is gaining internation attention.

A win for Brazil would not just be an important one for the fans, following disappointment in a number of recent international tournaments, but it would also mean a lot to Renato Augusto, who has had to battle through potentially career ending knee surgury to get to the point he is at now.

He is back to the level which he showed at Leverkusen where he was set up to be the lastest Brazilian superstar.

Angel Correa | Argentina

It will not be a shock to fans of La Liga and European football to see Angel Correa feature on this list, over the course of the last season the Argentinian forward has gained favour with his current boss Diego Simeone at Ateltico Madrid. 

Due to his nationality and his stature, he has gained comparisons to Argentina's Carlos Tevez and Sergio Aguero.

Although he has a long way to go to be anyway near as successful as these two world class players, it is easy to see the attributes which are drawing these comparisons.

He likes to run with the ball, showing great control and good technique. He also possesses a low centre of gravity, which we have seen players like Aguero use to great effect for Manchester City since he arrived from Correa's current club Atletico Madrid.

Prior to his move to Atletico, he helped his previous club San Lorenzo lift the South American equivalent of the Champions League (the Copa Libertadores) and from this, he was called up to the full Argentinian international squad.

If Brazil fail to win the gold medal then it wouldn't be a surprise to see Argentina take their place. 

Correa is at a club who have a rich history of bringing through world class strikers, players like Christian Vieri, Fernando Torres, Sergio Aguero, Diego Forlan all improved as players when they played at the Vicente Calderon Stadium and it wouldn't be a surprise to see Angel Correa's name dominate the headlines this summer.

Maximilian Meyer | Germany

Meyer is an attacking midfielder who is currently playing for Schalke 04 in his native Germany. He has been playing regular first team football since 2013 where he benefitted from the exit of Lewis Holtby to Tottenham Hotspur.

His impressive form for Schalke over the last couple of seasons has brought Meyer to the attention of current Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp, who has been linked with the 20-year-old since the transfer window reopened earlier this summer.

Again he has a low centre of gravity which aids his dribbling abilities and he also possesses great speed.

His one weakness would be the lack of goals he has scored during the league campaigns that he has played in, but hopefully, this will be something which he can develop with age.

No matter what tournament the German national side compete in, you know that there is going to be a high chance of them progressing to the latter stages of the tournament. With Germany taking both Sven and Lars Bender as designated overage players, there is a real chance that they might have the best midfield at the tournament.

With Meyer making over 100 first team appearances for Schalke at such an early age, there's no doubt he can add additional experience to a Germany midfield which is already packed with an abundance of big game knowledge which could be key to making Germany Olympic champions.

Hirving Lozano | Mexico

Hirving Lozano went from a relatively unknown quantity to the headline of every back page over night when he was endlessly linked with a switch to Old Trafford just after Jose Mourinho's appointment as new Manchester United boss.

The Mexican winger is still playing his football at Pachuca despite tabloid newspapers linking him with a move to the Premier League.

But when you look at his relatively short CV, it is easy to see why an English team would want to take a gamble on him rather than paying over the odds for a young, promising English winger who would cost an inflated fee.

Since making his debut in 2014, Lozano has gone on to make himself an indispensable member of Pachuca's first team and he helped them win the 2016 Clausura tournament ,whilst also being named within the best eleven from the tournament.

He is a right-footed winger who plays on the left-hand side, allowing him to cut inside and utilise his excellent long range shooting.

His form during the last 12 months was good enough to earn him a call-up to the Mexico national squad and it wouldn't be a surprise to see him in European football before too long.

At 21-years-old, he has a great future in front of him and although he is not playing in a team as strong as in previous years, Mexico did win the 2015 CONCACAF U-20 Championship so there will be talent throughout the squad.

Takuma Asano | Japan

Whilst Arsenal fans have been requesting the signing of a star striker, Arsene Wenger has stuck to his trademark youth policy. Asano has switched Sanfrecce Hiroshima of the J-League for the Premier League side. 

During his time at Sanfrecce Hiroshima he managed to win two J-League titles in three years and was also crowned the "rookie of the year" following the league title win in 2015. He also managed to force his way into Vahid Halilhodžić's plans for the international team in the same year. 

While Arsenal fans are seeking a striker who can come in and make an immediate impact, Asano will not be the player who dislodges Olivier Giroud as their first-choice striker. But he does have bags of potential which could see Japan be the surprise package in the hunt for the gold medal.

His goal return isn't that high, 11 in 57 matches, but he is a constant nuisance. 

His ability to run with the ball at pace will be enough to frighten most defenders and his constant movement across the back four opens up gaps in the opposition's defense allowing teammates space in dangerous situations.

There are many other players who are worthy of a mention leading up to the tournament, but I think these five players will make their mark in what should be an intriguing contest.

Who do you think will win Olympic Gold? Have your say in the comment box below.

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