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U.S. men face tough Olympic competition
by Paul Kennedy, April 21st, 2008 6:31AM
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[MEN'S SCOUTING REPORT] he USA was drawn with the Netherlands, the two-time defending European U-21 champion, former Olympic gold-medalist Nigeria and Japan, an Asian age-group powerhouse, in what shapes up to be a very tough test at the Olympic men's tournament.

U.S. under-23 head coach Peter Nowak termed Group B "a difficult group."

Play in Group B opens in Tianjin, where the USA faces Japan on Aug. 7 and the Netherlands on Aug. 10. The Americans then move to Beijing, where they face Nigeria.

Group A (Shanghai): Ivory Coast, Argentina, Australia, Serbia
Group B (Tianjin): Netherlands, Nigeria, Japan, USA
Group C (Shenyang): China, New Zealand, Brazil, Belgium
Group D (Qinhuangdao): South Korea, Cameroon, Honduras, Italy

Aug. 7 in Tianjin
USA vs. Japan (5 a.m. ET)
Netherlands vs. Nigeria (7:45 a.m. ET)
Aug. 10 in Tianjin
Nigeria vs. Japan (5 a.m.)
USA vs. Netherlands (7:45 a.m.)
Aug. 13 in Shenyan
Netherlands vs. Japan (5 a.m. ET
Aug. 13 in Beijing
USA vs. Nigeria (5 a.m. ET)

JAPAN: The Japanese U-23s are familiar opponents. The USA played them at the 2007 Kirin Challenge in Kumamoto, the Japanese U-23s trained in at the Home Depot Center this winter and they will join the USA at the Toulon Tournament in France later this spring.

"Japan was one of the best youth teams I've ever played," said U.S. goalkeeper Chris Seitz, who was outstanding in the 0-0 draw in 2007. "They were a very good squad and we were playing at their place, but I'd expect to see the same kind of team in the Olympics. It was a competitive match and we did well to get a tie there."

Japan, which has qualified for four straight Olympic finals, is led by Hirayama Sota, who represented Japan four years ago in Greece as a university student. He began his pro career at Dutch club Heracles but has since returned home and now plays for Tokyo FC.

NETHERLANDS: The Dutch won back-to-back UEFA U-21 championships, clinching its first berth in the Olympic finals since 1952 when they beat England, 13-12, in a shootout to decide their UEFA U-21 semifinals,

The Jong Oranje, coached by Foppe de Haan, feature some of Europe's brightest young stars, including midfielders Ibrahim Afellay of PSV and Hedwiges Maduro of Valencia, Ryan Babel of Liverpool and left winger Royston Drenthe of Real Madrid.

Another Dutch U-23 with lots of senior international experience is Urby Emanuelson. Babel, Drenthe and Emanuelson are all of Surinamese origin. Reflecting the multi-ethnic nature of Dutch soccer, the 2007 Jong Oranje championship team featured five starters of Surinamese origin, one Dutch Antillean, one Israeli-Dutchman and one Moroccan-Dutchman.

Also eligible is Canadian Jonathan de Guzman, the young Feyenoord star who recently declared his loyalty for the Dutch national team and scored twice in his U-21 Dutch debut.

NIGERIA: Nigeria is loaded with Everton striker Victor Anichebe, who scored in March's 3-0 victory over South Africa that clinched an Olympic berth for what is being dubbed Dream Team IV, Chelsea midfielder Mikel John Obi and Marseille defender Taye Taiwo among Nigeria top under-23 players.

The U-23 Eagles are coached by former Nigerian World Cup player Samson Siasia, who spent 1999-2004 coaching youth soccer in the Atlanta. In 2005, he led Nigeria to second place at the U-20 World Cup in the Netherlands.

Siasia is reportedly going to invite Watford defender Danny Shittu, Lokomotiv Moscow striker Osaze Odemwingie and Hapoel Tel Aviv goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama as the three overage players for the Olympics.


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