The Panenka previews Group B of the Rio 2016 Men’s Soccer tournament containing the 2015 U-21 European Champions Sweden, Japan, Nigeria and Colombia.


Sweden

Coach: Hakan Ericson

How they qualified: Sweden surprised the continent, and the wider footballing world in mid-2015, by winning their first UEFA U-21 European Championship in the Czech Republic. They were expected to struggle in a tough group, which included five-time winners Italy, two-time champions England and 1994 runners-up Portugal, but Hakan Ericson’s side navigated their way through with a win against the Azzurri, a defeat against the Three Lions and a draw against the Seleção. Their second place in the group saw them reach Rio 2016 and set up a mouth-watering semi-final with Nordic neighbours Denmark. They dominated against the Danes, winning 4-1 to set up a showdown with Portugal. A tense final against Rui Jorge’s side ended goalless, with stopper Patrick Carlgren crowned the Swedish hero after saving William Carvalho’s crucial spot kick.

Squad

Goalkeepers: Tim Erlandsson (Nottingham Forest), Andreas Linde (Molde)

Defenders: Pa Konate (Malmo), Adam Lundqvist (Elfsborg), Alexander Milosevic* (Besiktas), Joakim Nilsson (Elfsborg), Noah Sonko Sundberg (Sundsvall), Sebastian Starke Hedlund (Kalmar), Jacob Une Larsson (Djurgardens)

Midfielders: Astrit Ajdarevic* (Orebro), Alexander Fransson (Basel), Abdul Khalili* (Mersin Idman Yurdu), Robin Quaison (Palermo), Ken Sema (IFK), Muamer Tankovic (AZ Alkmaar), Simon Tibbling (Groningen)

Forwards: Mikael Ishak (Randers),

Colombia

Coach: Carlos Restrepo

How they qualified: Colombia’s path to Rio 2016 can be divided into two parts. First up was the 2015 South American U-20 Championship in Uruguay, where they took second place. After edging through the first group phase with two wins and defeats apiece, they came into their own in the final stage, including drawing with the hosts and thrashing Brazil 3-0 to end up behind only Argentina. Although this runners-up finish was not good enough to qualify directly for Rio 2016, with only the winners going straight through, it did book them a ticket to the intercontinental play-off against USA. The Colombians prevailed over two legs, triumphing 2-1 in Texas after being held 1-1 in Barranquilla. Several members of the aforementioned U-20 side, such as Jarlan Barrera and Rafael Santos Borre, played their part in getting the job done, while Juan Fernando Quintero and Roger Martinez were particularly influential among the older heads involved.

Squad

Goalkeepers: Cristian Bonilla (Atletico Nacional), Luis Hurtado (Deportivo Cali)

Defenders: Felipe Aguilar (Atletico Nacional), Deivy Balanta (Atletico Junior), Cristian Borja (Santa Fe), Deiver Machado (Millonarios), Helibelton Palacios (Deportivo Cali), William Tesillo* (Santa Fe)

Midfielders: Kevin Balanta (Deportivo Cali), Wilmar Barrios (Deportes Tolima), Jefferson Lerma (Levante), Sebastian Perez (Santa Fe)

Forwards: Miguel Borja (Deportivo Cortulua), Teofilo Gutierrez* (Sporting), Dorlan Pabon* (Monterrey), Harold Preciado (Deportivo Cali), Andres Renteria (Santos Laguna), Andres Roa (Deportivo Cali)

Nigeria

Coach: Samson Siasia

How they qualified: The 1996 winners entered qualification for the CAF U-23 Africa Cup of Nations at the final play-off stage, where they defeated Congo 2-1 over two legs, with Junior Ajayi grabbing both of the goals for ‘Dream Team VI’. In the tournament proper, they finished second in Group B on goal difference behind fellow Olympians Algeria, courtesy of an Ajayi-inspired victory against Mali and draws against Egypt and Les Verts. A single Etebo Oghenekaro strike saw off the finals hosts Senegal in the semi-final to book their tickets to Rio, and finished the tournament in style by defeating Algeria 2-1 in the final.

Squad

Goalkeepers: Daniel Akpeyi* (Chippa United), Emmanuel Daniel (Enugu Rangers)

Defenders: Stanley Amuzie (Olhanense), William Ekong (Haugesund), Saturday Erimuya (Kayseri Erciyesspor), Kingsley Madu (Trencin), Abdullahi Shehu (Uniao Da Madeira), Muenfuh Sincere (Rhapsody), Ndifreke Udo (Abia Warriors)

Midfielders: Okechukwu Azubuike (Yeni Malatyaspor), Oghenekaro Etebo (Feirense), John Obi Mikel* (Chelsea), Usman Muhammed* (Uniao Da Madeira), Popoola Saliu (Seraing United)

Forwards: Oluwafemi Ajayi (Sfaxien), Imoh Ezekiel (Anderlecht), Aminu Umar (Osmanlispor), Sadiq Umar (Roma)

Japan

Coach: Tadahiro Akiba

How they qualified: Japan dominated their qualifying group for the AFC U-23 Championship, dispatching Macau, Vietnam and Malaysia with ease by scoring ten goals across the three matches without conceding. They continued that good form into the final tournament, winning all three pool games to top Group B and progress to the quarter-finals. They left it late in the knockout stages, needing extra time to get past Iran in the last eight before a dramatic stoppage time winner saw off Iraq in the semi-final and booked their ticket to Rio. The Samurai Blue went on to claim the continental title, coming from two goals down to win the final 3-2 against Korea Republic.

Squad

Goalkeepers: Masatoshi Kushibiki (Kashima Antlers), Kosuke Nakamura (Kashiwa Reysol)

Defenders: Hiroki Fujiharu* (Gamba Osaka), Takuya Iwanami (Vissel Kobe), Masashi Kamekawa (Avispa Fukuoka), Sei Muroya (FC Tokyo), Tsukasa Shiotani* (Sanfrecce Hiroshima), Naomichi Ueda (Kashima Antlers)

Midfielders: Wataru Endo (Urawa Red Diamonds), Riki Harakawa (Kawasaki Frontale), Yosuke Ideguchi (Gamba Osaka), Takumi Minamino (Salzburg), Shoya Nakajima (FC Tokyo), Ryota Ohshima (Kawasaki Frontale), Shinya Yajima (Fagiano Okayama)

Forwards: Takuma Asano (Arsenal), Shinzo Koroki* (Urawa Red Diamonds), Yuya Kubo (Young Boys)