The ‘players to watch at the Olympics’ XI

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Feast your eyes on some football players in China


Perhaps one day someone will start a sentence with “there’s an Englishman, an Irishman and a Scotsman” without it being a joke about people in boxes saying “potatoes” – it could even be used to introduce a Great British football line up. How wonderful would that be? Although, of course, the Irishman would have to come from the less green-grassy part of the emerald isle, and more the cobbled street bit where horses run wild (that’s the north, right?). Until that day, though, we’re going to have to content ourselves by gazing jealously at the other countries who get to call their footballers Olympians. Here’s eleven to keep a hungry eye on this year…

GK Brad Guzan, USA 
Aston Villa’s (other) new American goalkeeper called Brad, the USA’s decision to make him one of their three over-23 players – he turns 24 during the tournament – shows just how great he is. That, of course, will count for nothing when he gets to Villa and warms the bench for the next decade, as Friedel becomes steadily more decrepit but still brilliant.

DL Marcelo, Brazil 
Real Madrid signed the left wing-back in 2007 and he became a regular starter last season, pushing Gabriel Heinze into the centre. Unsurprisingly, he gets compared to Roberto Carlos – everyone does – and found the net on his international debut against Wales.

DC Vincent Kompany, Belgium
For those who spend their weekends playing Football Manager instead of talking to girls, you already know this guy, he’s one of the best buys in the game, damn it! And as it turns out, the 22-year-old isn’t too shabby in real life either. Right now he’s at Martin Jol’s Hamburg, and The Spoiler’scomputerised West Ham.

DC Ezequiel Garay, Argentina
With all the Ronaldo talk this summer, Garay’s arrival at the Bernabeu went almost unnoticed, and yet Real Madrid spent just under £8 million on the centre-back – they must expect big things from him. Then again, they did pay £800 million for Jonathan Woodgate once.

DR Kew Jaliens, Holland
The versatile defender is one of Holland’s three over 23 players, and is a key member of Louis van Gaal’s AZ Alkmaar. The 29-year-old was a member of their 2006 World Cup squad, and no doubt spends his evenings smoking a pipe and regaling the team with stories from the early 1990s.

ML Royston Drenthe, Holland 
The Real Madrid man was the player of the tournament at the Euro Under-21 Championships, and the thought of him and Ryan Babel charging at defenders with their blistering pace will give opposition defenders something very frightening to think about during their downtime.

MC Javier Mascherano, Argentina
After falling behind Hayden Mullins and Nigel Quashie in West Ham’s pecking order, Mascherano moved to Liverpool where his performances over the past 18 months have seen him emerge as arguably the best defensive midfielder in the world. Fact.

MC Anderson, Brazil
Ronaldo’s partner-in-womanising has decided to concentrate on football for the summer. After all, who’s more likely to get laid, the hunk at the bar offering everyone a tasty cocktail? Or the hunk at the bar offering everyone a cocktail with a clunky gold medal hanging from his neck? Nice forward thinking.

MR Ryan Babel, Holland
The Liverpool speedster is building up a bit of a rep, and looks set to be one of the best at the Olympics. Expect to hear his name being bandied around next time you’re in China.

FC Sergio Aguero, Argentina
The Golden Boot winner at 2007’s Under-20s World Cup, Sergio plays for Atletico Madrid, where he is considered really excellent. His nickname, El Kin, comes from a Japanese anime character, so he should be right at home in the Orient.

FC Alexandre Pato, Brazil
A possible best player in the world one day, Pato has already scored nine goals for AC Milan in just eighteen games. Could become a gold medal winning Olympian at just 18. Which would be impressive.

The best of the rest:
Ryan Nelsen (Blackburn, New Zealand), Salomon Kalou (Chelsea, Ivory Coast), Victor Anichebe (Everton, Nigeria), Michael Bradley (Heerenveen, USA), Freddy Adu (Monaco, USA), Brian McBride (Chicago Fire, USA), Lucas (Liverpool, Brazil), Ronaldinho (AC Milan, Brazil), Jo (Man City, Brazil), Riccardo Montolivo (Fiorentina, Italy), Guiseppe Rossi (Villarreal, Italy), Roy Makaay (Feyenoord, Holland)

The players who may still be involved:
Lionel Messi (Barcelona, Argentina), Diego (Werder Bremen, Brazil), Rafinha (Schalke, Brazil)

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