The men's soccer competition will lift the lid at the 2016 Rio Olympics, as the 16-team tournament kicks off the day prior to the opening ceremonies on Aug. 4 with eight group-play matches.
Bovada has posted odds for all 16 teams to win their respective group. Not surprisingly, host Brazil is the heaviest favorite at -500 to win Group A. Germany (-225, Group C) and Argentina (-115, Group D) are also odds-on to win their groups, while Colombia is the favorite in Group B at +120.
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Here are the group stage odds, courtesy of Bovada, followed by picks and analysis.
South Africa +1150
Brazil's international focus this summer has been entirely on the Olympics, to the point where even last month's prestigious Copa America took a back seat to this competition. As host, and the fact the Olympics is the only FIFA-organized international competition Brazil has never won, it was an understandable decision.
Brazil will feature by far the tournament's most accomplished player in Neymar, the Barcelona striker who is one of the three designated players over the age of 23 on the Brazilian roster. He figures to provide plenty of magic facing a bunch of wet-behind-the-ears youngsters in this tournament.
If you're not in the habit of laying 5-to-1, as backing Brazil would require, perhaps Denmark is worth a flyer. The Danes came up huge in last year's UEFA U-21 European Championship to qualify for the Olympics. Despite being unseeded in the tournament, Denmark won its group, which included powerhouses Germany and Portugal, then made it all the way to the semifinals before losing to eventual champion Sweden.
If the immense pressure placed on Brazil to win in their homeland takes a toll--ala the most recent World Cup--Denmark could be the beneficiary.
South Africa and Iraq seem badly outclassed in this tournament.
The Pick: Probably not worth a bet, but Brazil is the selection
On paper, this is the most wide-open of the four groups. Favorite Colombia finished runner-up to Argentina in South American qualifying but then beat the United States in a two-match intra-regional playoff to earn the Olympic berth. Additionally, Colombia hasn't been beaten in six matches this year.
Sweden knocked off Portugal in penalty kicks in the final of last year's UEFA U-21 championship to earn its first Olympics berth since 1992. Sweden looks to be a legitimate threat as they have multiple players with 10 or more appearances with the senior national team, which should serve them well in this tournament.
Nigeria won the Africa U-23 Cup of Nations to qualify for the Olympics. The Super Eagles have had success in the Olympics before, having won silver in 2008 at Beijing and gold in 2006 in Atlanta. However, Nigeria wasn't particularly impressive while emerging from a suspect field in qualifying. The good news is in the Olympics they will have the services of veteran Chelsea midfielder John Obi Mikel.
Japan beat South Korea in the final to win the AFC U-23 Championship in January and qualify for the Olympics. Japan, whose best finish in the Olympics was a fourth in 2012, has been in good form this year. Since winning the qualifying tournament, Japan has won friendlies over Ghana (3-0) and Mexico (2-1), which won gold in London 2012.
The Pick: Sweden
South Korea +650
Germany is a threat to win every tournament it enters. However, this particular squad when last seen in a competitive match was getting dumped from European qualifying in the quarterfinals by Portugal 5-0. While that doesn't inspire much confidence, this also isn't the toughest of groups.
Mexico is the defending Olympic champions having won gold in London in 2012. El Tri rolled through CONCACAF qualifying last year, but 2016 has been a different story so far. Mexico was beaten five straight matches this spring before finally getting past Bulgaria in their final Olympic tuneup in late May. That's certainly not the best way to come into an international tournament.
South Korea lost to Japan in the final of Asian qualifying in January, but since then South Korea has gone 3-1-2 in friendlies with noteworthy results that include a win over Nigeria and tie with Denmark. This is a team in good form that could make things interesting.
Vastly overmatched Fiji is the longest shot on the board, and simply finding the goal would be an accomplishment.
The Pick: Germany
Argentina, which won Olympic gold in 2004 and 2008, went 7-1-1 while dominating the South American qualifying tournament. This is a country with a veritable assembly line of soccer talent. And based off that qualifying performance, Argentina would be tough to bet against.
As previously noted, Portugal was beaten by Sweden in the final of European qualifying. This team boasts some talent as despite losing in PKs, five Portugese players wound up being selected for the all-tournament team starting 11.
Algeria lost to Nigeria in the final of African qualifying. This is another team that features players with significant senior team experience. Still, this is a tough group given the traditional powers noted above.
Honduras knocked off the United States in the semifinals of CONCACAF qualifying to snatch the region's final automatic bid to the Olympics. That's probably as good as it gets for this group.
The Pick: Argentina
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