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Marcotti: Platini's missed opportunity

FIFA 18 hours ago
Read
 Posted by ESPN Staff
Jul 25, 2008

Olympics: Group D

CAMEROON

Free-scoring and unpredictable as ever, Cameroon are expected to be one of the most entertaining teams at the Olympic soccer tournament.

The Indomitable Lion Cubs scored 14 goals in six qualifiers and several members of their team have already played at senior level.

Cameroon spectacularly won the gold medal in 2000, beating Brazil in the quarter-finals despite having two players sent off before overcoming Chile and Spain.

Midfielder Alexander Song has plenty of English Premiership experience with Arsenal and played at this year's African Nations Cup in Ghana where Cameroon finished runners-up.

Other important players include French-based pair Stephane Mbia, who scored twice in the Nations Cup quarter-final win over Tunisia, and Landry Nguemo.


HONDURAS

Honduras, who caused a surprise by qualifying for China in first place, sprung another by dropping goal-scoring hero Georgie Welcome from the squad.

Mexico and the United States were expected to take CONCACAF's two places but the Mexicans failed to get past their first-round group in the qualifying tournament.

Honduras guaranteed their slot by reaching the final where they enjoyed the added bonus of beating the U.S. in extra-time with a brilliant effort by Welcome.

Welcome, however, was axed by coach George Yearwood who said the player had travelled to France for a trial with Grenoble without permission and replaced him with Jose Luis Lopez.

'We can't afford to mess around, I'm going to work with the players who are present,' said Yearwood.

To add insult to injury Welcome also failed to secure a place with the French club.

Honduras are taking part in their second Olympic tournament and the soccer squad represents two-thirds of their entire delegation of athletes in China.

At senior level they have been considered one of the most dangerous teams in Central America for several years, with wins against Brazil and Mexico, but have failed to add to their only appearance at the World Cup in 1982.

Yearwood, a defender in the 1982 team, has replaced Alexis Mendoza, the Colombian having been promoted to assistant coach with the senior side.

Welcome could be sorely missed as goals have been Honduras's weak spot.


ITALY

Fiorentina midfielder Riccardo Montolivo, axed on the eve of Euro 2008, has a chance to put the record straight by inspiring his team to a good run at the Olympic Games.

Montolivo, the only man cut from the 24-man Euro squad, will be the playmaker in Beijing and a good performance could help him stake a claim for a regular place in the senior side.

More versatile than Andrea Pirlo, Gennaro Gattuso and Massimo Ambrosini, he is viewed as a bright prospect for the future and expectations have been raised following Italy's weak midfield display in Austria and Switzerland.

Another player with high hopes is 21-year-old Sebastian Giovinco who produced excellent performances for Empoli in Serie A last season despite the Tuscans being relegated.

Giovinco, who will return to Juventus next season, can operate in midfield or as a second striker.

Italy are making a record 16th appearance in the Olympic soccer and won their only gold medal in 1936.

Nearly all their squad have Serie A experience and, as usual, they are expected to be a tough nut to crack.

Traditionally strong in age-restricted tournaments, Italy have won five European under-21 championships, all since 1992.

They qualified for the Olympics thanks to a quirk of fate and a penalty shootout.

Having finished third in last year's European championship, used as the qualifying tournament, Italy were granted a reprieve because England, one of the second-placed teams in the two groups, do not take part in the Olympics.

Italy met Portugal, the other third-placed team, in a playoff, which they won on penalties after a 0-0 draw.

Lazio striker Tommaso Rocchi, on the fringes of the full squad, is the only over-age player.


SOUTH KOREA

South Korea scored a modest four goals in six games and conceded only one on their way to Beijing but new coach Park Sung-wha has promised a more adventurous approach at the Games.

Park took over last August, replacing Dutchman Pim Verbeek, and immediately promised to give more bite to a side who drew three of their six qualifiers 0-0 and won the remainder by one-goal margins.

South Korea have made big strides since their Games debut in 1948 when they were thrashed 12-0 by Sweden.

They will be taking part at their sixth successive Olympic tournament and hope to build on their performance in Athens where they progressed beyond the group stage for the first time.

Park contemplated including Park Ji-sung as an over-age player but decided the Manchester United player needed a rest.

'We decided not to select him as a wildcard in consideration of recent circumstances,' said the coach.

'Due to fatigue Park Ji-sung appeared to have been suffering from mental stress over his selection for the Olympics.'

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