Football, Argentina’s best hope in Rio 2016

Buenos Aires, April 27 (IANS) With a preliminary list of 57 players set to be published in coming days, Argentinean football is beginning its journey to reclaim gold in the Olympic Games.

With a gold medal each in Athens 2004 and Beijing 2008, as well as silvers in Amsterdam 1928 and Atlanta 1996, the Argentinean team will be one of the big favourites for the podium, reports Xinhua.

Coach Gerardo Martino has a tough time ahead of him to pick the right team, needing to balance experienced stars with future starters. However, besides the likes of Lionel Messi, Sergio Aguero and Angel di Maria, Martin has stated that youngsters will be given a chance in Rio to break into the national squad, especially ahead of the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

By June 1, Martino will have to whittle the list down to 35 players, and then to the final 18 by July 14.

For a country that has not won an important international title since the Copa America in 1993, these Olympics are being seen as a great chance to revitalise the squad.

Despite not going all the way in recent World Cups, Argentina remembers Beijing 2008 where, led by a young Messi, Argentina won the gold. This was when Messi roared onto the world stage, helping to defeat Brazil 3-0 in the semi-finals and Nigeria by 1-0 in the final at Beijing’s National Stadium.

Four years earlier, managed by Marcelo Bielsa and led by star Carlos Tevez, Argentina had won its first football gold medal in Athens 2004.

Prior to that, since winning a silver in Amsterdam 1928, Argentina had been knocked out in the quarter-finals of Rome 1960, in the first round of Tokyo 1964 and in the quarter-finals of Seoul 1988 before returning to the final in Atlanta 1996, only to lose surprisingly 2-3 against Nigeria.

This year is being seen as a chance to return to past Olympic glories, and nothing would be more delicious than claiming gold in the backyard of Argentina’s fierce rival, Brazil.

Portugal, Honduras and Algeria await in the first round but Argentina are determined to be there to claim the goal on August 19.

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