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Five young stars to watch in the Brazil-Germany Olympic Final
There are twenty-eight different sports at the Rio Olympics this summer and many more events in the men’s and women’s competitions, yet none has been able to capture the imagination of the Brazil spectators quite like football. Although the Olympics in generally considered a sideshow in the world game of football, reflected in strict roster regulations that limit each nation to only three players over 23, but the home nation have been drawing sellout crowds to each of their matches in both the men’s and women’s games.
Under the guidance of coach Rogerio Micale, Brazil have booked their spot in a showcase finale against Germany on Saturday, a repeat of Brazil’s infamous 7-1 defeat to the Germans in the 2014 World Cup, albeit on a smaller scale. While the memories of that harrowing night will never be forgotten in Brazil, Olympic Gold could ease the long process of healing.
Naturally, there will be plenty of young talent on show at the Maracana and we’ve compiled a list of five especially bright stars to keep your eye on:
Marquinhos might only be twenty-two-years-old but is already shaping into a strong leader for the Seleçao at the heart of defense. The talented central defender has already made eleven appearances for Brazil’s senior national team, having been a part of their Copa Centenario squad this summer, and brings experience and a cool temperament to their Olympic team.
He joined Paris Saint-Germain as a teenager in 2012 for a daunting €31.4 million price tag from AS Roma, the highest-ever transfer fee for a teenager at the time, but has stepped up to the challenge in Paris and already has three Ligue 1 winners medals and Champions League experience under his belt.
He is not daunted by physical battles, scoring from a corner in Brazil’s 6-0 semifinal rout of Honduras, and is also technically adept and tactically aware. In that respect, he takes after his club and country teammate Thiago Silva, who has been a mentor and partner for the youngster.
Brazil have not allowed a single goal in this Olympics so far and it will take another Herculean effort from Marquinhos & Co. to keep out Germany, the highest scorers of the tournament.
Max Meyer (Germany)
Twenty-year-old Max Meyer is one of Germany’s brightest Olympic prospects, with close control and a deft touch that he credits to a background in futsal.
He inhabits an attacking position right behind the striker in a midfield role and scored a hat-trick in Germany’s 10-0 victory over Fiji in the group stages of the Olympics.
Meyer is a product of Schalke 04’s famed youth academy and broke onto the scene as an eighteen-year-old in 2012, jumping at the opportunity for senior playing-time following the departure of Lewis Holtby. The creative midfielder has taken advantage of every injury and transfer over the past three years to earn the appreciation of coach Roberto Di Matteo, carving out a starting position in the No. 10 role.
An Olympic gold has the potential to further accelerate his career path, with a big name move on the horizon.
Gabriel Jesus (Brazil)
Gabriel Jesus earned a spot on Brazil’s Olympic team after a breakout 2015 season with Palmerias, scoring fourteen goals in thirty-three appearances. Manchester City warded off interest from Real Madrid and Barcelona to capture the nineteen-year-old’s signature for £27 million just before the beginning of the games and Sky Blues fans will be licking their lips based on what they’ve seen so far in Rio. His pace and lethality have been evident up top with three goals under his name, including a brace against Honduras in the semifinals.
Lukas Klostermann (Germany)
German defender Lukas Klostermann is seeking to pin down a starting position with RB Leipzig this season, having joined the club on a four-year contract in 2014. His current deal will run its course in a year-and-a-half and the full-back will hope that a strong Olympics performance can help build enough momentum so as to eventually earn him a new contract or big-name transfer (Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur are rumored to be keeping tabs on him).
He scored in Germany’s semifinal victory over Nigeria with a towering header and will return to club football to the curiosity of many keen eyes. Klostermann helped earn promotion to the Bundesliga with Leipzig last season and only stands to benefit from more experience at a higher level of play.
Felipe Anderson (Brazil)
Felipe Anderson is among the more experienced Under-23 players expected to play in Saturday’s final, having made eight appearances for Lazio since moving to Italy as a teenager. The Brazilian midfielder joined from Santos in 2013 and has scored seventeen goals for the White and Blues, piquing the interest of a certain Manchester United.
The pacy midfielder can play anywhere across the front line but has primarily played in the attacking-midfield role for Brazil this summer and will likely make a substitute appearance in the final.
Homepage photo credit: Agência Brasil [CC BY 3.0 br], via Wikimedia Commons