The draws for the 2016 Rio Olympics groups for soccer have been revealed. Olympic soccer is a U-23 event with 16 teams split into four groups of four teams. The draw was completed at the Estadio de Maracana in Rio de Janeiro.
Host nations Brazil could not have been given an easier path to the knockout stages. Brazil, which could be led by star man Neymar should he be one of the three over 23 players to play, have drawn Iraq, Denmark, and South Africa in their group.
Denmark topped Group A in the 2015 UEFA European U-21 Championships, South Africa won the third place game in the 2015 U-23 African Cup of Nations to clinch the final qualification spot from Africa, and Iraq earned the same fate as South Africa, earning their spot by winning their third place game in the 2016 AFC U-23 Championships.
Brazil have yet to win the gold medal in soccer at the Olympic Games so a win as the host nation would be sweet. The Brazilians have been three-time silver medalists with their most recent runner-up coming in the 2012 London Games.
This group is the Group of Death for this year’s Olympic Games. This group is composed of Sweden, Colombia, Nigeria, and Japan, loads of big-hitters in the U-23 game. Nigeria, Japan, and Sweden were all first-time winners of their respective confederation championships, making the competition fierce for one of the two qualification spots in this group.
Colombia qualified by defeating the United States in the CONCACAF-CONMEBOL playoff after failing to meet automatic qualification by finishing second in the South American Youth Football Championships.
Two U-23 powerhouses, one soccer powerhouse, and a major underdog describe this group perfectly. The U-23 powerhouses, South Korea and Mexico, are favorites to advance from the group stage over the likes of senior-level powerhouse Germany and likely cellar-dwellars Fiji. The Koreans have qualified for every Olympics that have played soccer at the U-23 format and are the returning bronze medalists.
Mexico is the defending gold medalists and were the 2015 CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying champions. Fiji was able to advance to the Olympics as the Pacific Games champion. Fiji was one of five Pacific Games participants who were eligible to qualify for the Olympics due to being FIFA and IOC eligible.
The final group of the Olympics is another tough group. Honduras, Portugal, Algeria, and Argentina are all in this group. Argentina won the South American Football Championships while Portugal, Algeria, and Honduras were all runners-up in their respective confederations.
After missing out on the Olympics in 2012, Argentina are looking to add their gold medal tally after winning gold in 2004 Athens and 2008 Beijing.