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Tokyo Olympic men's soccer: Teams, groups, schedule, players to watch

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For the third straight Olympics, the U.S. will not have a men's team in the competition. Still, there will be plenty of storylines for American soccer fans to follow at the Tokyo Games.

The U.S. men's national team's biggest rival, Mexico, is bringing a strong roster of players to Japan for the competition and should be a strong medal contender. Mexico took home gold in men's soccer during the 2008 Olympics in London. Brazil are the reigning gold-medal winners, prevailing on home soil in 2016. Brazil opens the competition with a rematch against the nation it defeated in the 2016 gold-medal match, Germany.

The men's soccer tournament at the Tokyo Olympics will take place from July 22 through Aug. 7. The bronze medal match will take place on Aug. 6 in Saitama. The gold medal match will be on Aug. 7 and played in Yokohama.

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Diego Lainez is expected to be a key contributor for Mexico at the Olympics in Tokyo.
Diego Lainez is expected to be a key contributor for Mexico at the Olympics in Tokyo.

Here's everything you need to know for the men's soccer competition at the Tokyo Olympics:

What are the Tokyo Olympic men's soccer teams and groups?

Group A

  • France

  • Japan

  • Mexico

  • South Africa

Group B

  • Honduras

  • New Zealand

  • Romania

  • South Korea

Group C

  • Argentina

  • Australia

  • Egypt

  • Spain

Group D

  • Brazil

  • Germany

  • Ivory Coast

  • Saudi Arabia

What are the Olympic men's soccer age requirements?

Participating athletes must be born on or after Jan. 1, 1997. A maximum of three players who do not meet this age limit also can be included on the official list of players for the men's soccer competition.

These rules differ from the Olympic women's soccer competition in which there are no player age restrictions.

Who are some men's soccer players to watch in the Tokyo Olympics?

Dani Alves, defender, Brazil: Neymar was included on the preliminary roster, but not in the final squad. That makes the 38-year-old Alves the most familiar name on the team. Alves has been capped 118 times by the Brazilian national team, a veteran of two World Cups and is considered the most decorated soccer player in history, having won more than 40 trophies combined for club and country.

Ezequiel Barco, forward, Argentina: The U.S. might not be represented in the men's soccer competition, but its domestic league will be. The 22-year-old Barco, who's had an up-and-down career with Atlanta United is one of two players on Argentina's Olympic squad who play for MLS teams. Claudio Bravo (Portland Timbers) is the other. Honduras' Douglas Martínez (Real Salt Lake) will be the other MLS representative at the Olympics.

André-Pierre Gignac, forward, France: The 35-year-old scored the winning goal in Tigres' win over Los Angeles FC in the 2020 Concacaf Champions League final. Then, in February, his goal in the FIFA Club World Cup semifinals helped Tigres become the first Liga MX club to reach the final of the competition, in which Gignac was the leading goal-scorer.

Max Kruse, forward, Germany: The 33-year-old German national team veteran - he's earned 14 caps - helped his club team, Union Berlin, secure a spot in the new UEFA Europa Conference League, scoring 11 goals as Union finished seventh in the Bundesliga during the 2020-21 season.

Takefusa Kubo, midfielder, Japan: The 20-year-old might be the host nation's top up-and-coming talent, having been signed by Real Madrid in 2019, though he has yet to debut with the first team.

Diego Lainez, midfielder, Mexico: The 21-year-old who plays professionally for Real Betis of La Liga is an emerging star for El Tri. In the Concacaf Nations League final against the U.S., Lainez scored a goal just seconds after coming on as a substitute.

Guillermo Ochoa, goalkeeper, Mexico: Clearly, Mexico is taking the Olympic soccer competition seriously when it is bringing their 35-year-old stalwart between the pipes to Tokyo. Ochoa is a veteran of four World Cups for El Tri.

Pedri, midfielder, Spain: At 18 years old, Pedri - who plays professionally for FC Barcelona - is the youngest player on his Olympic team, but he's a fast rising star for Spain. Before embarking for Tokyo, he was a part of Spain's UEFA Euro 2020 squad, starting all six games for a team that reached the semifinals of the competition.

Richarlison, forward, Brazil: The 24-year-old who plays professionally for Everton will be a strong presence in front of goal for Brazil, for which he scored a goal as it was the runner-up at this year's Copa America.

What is the Tokyo Olympics men's soccer match schedule?

Olympics coverage will be available on NBC, CNBC, NBC Sports Network, the Olympic Channel, USA Network and Golf Channel. Streaming will be available on NBCOlympics.com and the NBC Sports app, as well as Peacock. Telemundo Deportes will provide Spanish-language Olympics coverage with programming on Telemundo and Universo.

GROUP STAGE

Thursday, July 22

  • Egypt vs. Spain, 3:30 a.m. ET in Sapporo (Olympic Channel)

  • New Zealand vs. South Korea, 4 a.m. ET in Kashima

  • Mexico vs. France, 4 a.m. ET in Tokyo (USA Network)

  • Ivory Coast vs. Saudi Arabia, 4:30 a.m. ET in Yokohama

  • Argentina vs. Australia, 6:30 a.m. ET in Sapporo (Olympic Channel)

  • Japan vs. South Africa, 7 a.m. ET in Tokyo (NBCSN)

  • Honduras vs. Romania, 7 a.m. ET in Kashima

  • Brazil vs. Germany, 7:30 a.m. ET in Yokohama (USA Network)

Sunday, July 25

  • Egypt vs. Argentina, 3:30 a.m. ET in Sapporo

  • France vs. South Africa, 4 a.m. ET in Saitama

  • New Zealand vs. Honduras, 4 a.m. ET in Kashima

  • Brazil vs. Ivory Coast, 4:30 a.m. ET in Yokohama (NBCSN)

  • Australia vs. Spain, 6:30 a.m. ET in Sapporo (NBCSN)

  • Japan vs. Mexico, 7 a.m. ET in Saitama (Telemundo)

  • Romania vs. South Korea, 7 a.m. ET in Kashima

  • Saudi Arabia vs. Germany, 7:30 a.m. ET in Yokohama

Wednesday, July 28

  • Saudi Arabia vs. Brazil, 4 a.m. ET in Saitama

  • Germany vs. Ivory Coast, 4 a.m. ET in Miyagi (NBCSN)

  • Romania vs. New Zealand, 4:30 a.m. ET in Sapporo

  • South Korea vs. Honduras, 4:30 a.m. ET in Yokohama

  • Australia vs. Egypt, 7 a.m. ET in Miyagi

  • Spain vs. Argentina, 7 a.m. ET in Saitama (NBCSN)

  • South Africa vs. Mexico, 7:30 a.m. ET in Sapporo

  • France vs. Japan, 7:30 a.m. ET in Yokohama (NBCSN)

QUARTERFINALS

Saturday, July 31

  • First place Group C vs. second place Group D, 4 a.m. ET in Miyagi (NBCSN)

  • First place Group A vs. second place Group B, 5 a.m. ET in Kashima

  • First place Group D vs. second place Group C, 6 a.m. ET in Saitama

  • First place Group B vs. second place Group A, 7 a.m. ET in Yokohama (USA Network)

SEMIFINALS

Tuesday, Aug. 3

  • First place Group B/second place Group A winner vs. first place Group D/second place Group C winer, 4 a.m. ET in Kashima (NBCSN)

  • First place Group A/second place Group B winners vs. first place Group C/second place Group D winner, 7 a.m. ET in Saitama (NBCSN)

BRONZE MEDAL MATCH

Friday, Aug. 6

  • Semifinal losers, 7 a.m. ET in Saitama (NBCSN)

GOLD MEDAL MATCH

Saturday, Aug. 7

  • Semifinal winners, 7:30 a.m. ET in Yokohama (NBCSN)

Which countries have won medals men's soccer at the Olympics?

  • 2016: Brazil (gold), Germany (silver), Nigeria (bronze)

  • 2012: Mexico (gold), Brazil (silver), South Korea (bronze)

  • 2008: Argentina (gold), Nigeria (silver), Brazil (bronze)

  • 2004: Argentina (gold), Paraguay (silver), Italy (bronze)

  • 2000: Cameroon (gold), Spain (silver), Chile (bronze)

  • 1996: Nigeria (gold), Argentina (silver), Brazil (bronze)

  • 1992: Spain (gold), Poland (silver), Ghana (bronze)

  • 1988: Soviet Union (gold), Brazil (silver), West Germany (bronze)

  • 1984: France (gold), Brazil (silver), Yugoslavia (bronze)

  • 1980: Czechoslovakia (gold), East Germany (silver), Soviet Union (bronze)

  • 1976: East Germany (gold), Poland (silver), Soviet Union (bronze)

  • 1972: Poland (gold), Hungary (silver), East Germany and Soviet Union (bronze)

  • 1968: Hungary (gold), Bulgaria (silver), Japan (bronze)

  • 1964: Hungary (gold), Czechoslovakia (silver), Germany (bronze)

  • 1960: Yugoslavia (gold), Denmark (silver), Hungary (bronze)

  • 1956: Soviet Union (gold), Yugoslavia (silver), Bulgaria (bronze)

  • 1952: Hungary (gold), Yugoslavia (silver), Sweden (bronze)

  • 1948: Sweden (gold), Yugoslavia (silver), Denmark (bronze)

  • 1936: Italy (gold), Austria (silver), Norway (bronze)

  • 1928: Uruguay (gold), Argentina (silver), Italy (bronze)

  • 1924: Uruguay (gold), Switzerland (silver), Sweden (bronze)

  • 1920: Belgium (gold), Spain (silver), Netherlands (bronze)

  • 1912: Great Britain (gold), Denmark (silver), Netherlands (bronze)

  • 1908: Great Britain (gold), Denmark (silver), Netherlands (bronze)

  • 1904: Canada (gold), United States (silver and bronze)*

  • 1900: Great Britain (gold), France (silver), Belgium (bronze)*

* Three teams entered into the 1900 and 1904 men's soccer Olympic competitions.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: 2021 Olympics men's soccer: Teams, schedule, players to watch