The Panenka

A blog dedicated to European Football, World Soccer, and the 2018 World Cup in Russia

Rio 2016 Men’s Soccer: Group A

The Panenka preview’s Group A  of Rio 2016 Men’s soccer tournament which contains the tournament hosts Brazil, South Africa, Iraq and Denmark.


Coach: Rodrigo Micale

How they qualified: Though already guaranteed an Olympic berth in their capacity as hosts, Brazil took part all the same in the 2015 South American U-20 Championship, the qualifying competition for Rio 2016. A Canarinha scored three wins in taking second place in Group B behind hosts Uruguay, to whom they lost. Further defeats came against Argentina and Colombia in the final phase, in which they finished fourth with a mere seven points. When they run at Rio 2016, the boys in yellow and green will be tasked with restoring national pride following A Seleção’s chastening exit at the 2014 FIFA World Cup


Goalkeepers: Fernando Prass* (Palmeiras), Uilson (Atletico Mineiro)

Defenders: Douglas Santos (Atletico Mineiro), Luan Garcia (Vasco Da Gama), Marquinhos (Paris Saint-Germain), Rodrigo Caio (Sao Paulo), William (Internacional), Zeca (Santos)

Midfielders: Rafinha (Barcelona), Renato Augusto* (Beijing Guoan), Rodrigo Dourado (Internacional), Thiago Maia (Santos), Walace (Gremio)

Forwards: Felipe Anderson (Lazio), Gabriel Barbosa (Santos), Gabriel Jesus (Palmeiras), Luan (Gremio), Neymar* (Barcelona


South Africa

Coach: Owen da Gama

How they qualified: South Africa entered qualification for the CAF U-23 Africa Cup of Nations at the final play-off stage, where they defeated Zimbabwe 4-1 on aggregate over two legs, with Keagan Dolly grabbing three to help his side qualify for the final tournament in Senegal. Drawn into Group A with the hosts, Zambia and Tunisia, Owen Da Gama’s side progressed to the semi-finals thanks to a last gasp goal from Menzi Masuku in their crucial final game against Tunisia. A 2-0 defeat to Algeria in the final four meant a straight scrap for a Rio ticket with Senegal in the play-off for third place. A goalless draw led to a penalty shoot-out, with Phakamani Mahlambi scoring the spot kick that took his side to Rio.


Goalkeepers: Jody February (Ajax Cape Town), Itumeleng Khune* (Kaizer Chiefs)

Defenders: Rivaldo Coetzee (Ajax Cape Town), Repo Malepe (Moroka Swallows), Mulomowandau Mathoho* (Kaizer Chiefs), Kwandakwensizwa Mngonyama (Maritzburg United), Abbubaker Mobara (Ajax Cape Town), Aubrey Modiba (Mpumalanga Black Aces), Tebogo Moerane (Bidvest Wits)

Midfielders: Menzi Masuku (Orlando Pirates), Deolin Mekoa (Maritzburg United), Gift Motupa (Orlando Pirates), Phumlani Ntshangase (Bidvest Wits), Tyroane Sandows (Sao Paulo)

Forwards: Keagan Dolly (Mamelodi Sundowns), Tashreeq Morris (Ajax Cape Town), Lebo Mothiba (Lille), Mothobi Mvala (Highlands Park


Coach: Abdul-Ghani Shahad

How they qualified: The Lions of Mesopotamia reached the AFC U-23 Championship by topping a qualifying group of five that included tricky opponents Oman and Bahrain. When in Doha, they finished second behind Korea Republic in Group C to progress to the knockout stages, defeating Yemen and Uzbekistan before drawing with the group winners to seal their passage to the final eight. They required extra time to defeat United Arab Emirates in the quarter-final before Japan’s late winner saw them pitched against hosts Qatar in the third place play-off. The late drama was to be on Iraq’s side in their match against the hosts, equalising with four minutes of normal time remaining, before Aymen Hussein sealed their passage to Rio with an extra time winner.


Goalkeepers: Fahad Talib (Al Quwa Al Jawiya), Mohammed Hameed (Al Shorta)

Defenders: Ahmed Ibrahim* (Al Dhafra), Alaa Ali (Al Zawra’a), Ali Adnan (Udinese), Ali Faez (Al Shorta), Dhurgham Ismael (Caykur Rizespor), Hawbir Khasro (Maastricht), Mustafa Nadhim (Naft Al-Wasat), Suad Natiq (Al Quwa Al Jawiya)

Midfielders: Ali Hisny (Al-Menaa), Amjed Attwan (Al Shorta), Humam Tareq (Al Quwa Al Jawiya), Mahdi Kamil (Al Shorta), Saad Luaibi* (Al Qadisiya)

Forwards: Hammadi Ahmed* (Al Quwa Al Jawiya), Mohanad Abdulraheem (Al Zawra’a), Sherko Kareem (Grasshoppers)


Coach: Niels Frederiksen

How they qualified: Denmark surprised many by topping their group, which included much-fancied Germany, at the 2015 UEFA U-21 European Championship in the Czech Republic. They did so despite a defeat to the Germans, with victories over the hosts and Serbia seeing them top Group A to reach Rio, and set up a semi-final showdown with Nordic rivals Sweden. They were humbled by their neighbors, but captain Jannik Vestergaard, playmaker Viktor Fischer and forward Rasmus Falk were among those who caught the eye at the finals.


Goalkeepers: Lukas Fernandes (Sonderjyske), Jeppe Hojbjerg (Esbjerg)

Defenders: Mikkel Desler (Odense), Ediegerson Gomes* (Henan Jianye), Pascal Gregor (Nordsjaelland), Kasper Larsen (Groningen), Blabjerg Mathiasen (Aalborg)

Midfielders: Vigen Christensen (Fulham), Jens Jonsson (Aarhus), Andreas Maxso (Nordsjaelland), Casper Nielsen (Esbjerg)

Forwards: Manich Bech (Hannover), Frederik Borsting (Aalborg), Nicolai Brock-Madsen (Birmingham City), Emil Larsen* (Lyngby), Yurary Poulsen (Leipzig), Robert Skov (Silkeborg), Lasse Vibe* (Brentford)





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