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Argentine Men Favored To Keep Gold Medal
ESPNsoccernet, July 31st, 2008 5:30PM

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Jeff Carlisle ranks the 16 men's Olympic teams and puts defending champ Argentina at the top of the list because the team is "flat out loaded."

"This is especially true in midfield, where Juan Roman Riquelme and Javier Mascherano should dominate," writes Carlisle. "Up top, things are less certain with Lionel Messi's participation still in doubt ... though Sergio Aguero -- who won the Golden Ball at last year's U-20 World Cup in Canada -- should provide enough quality to get the necessary goals."

Brazil and the Netherlands, which is in the USA's group, are Carlisle's other medal favorites. Brazil boasts veteran Ronaldinho and young star Alexandre Pato in attack. The Dutch arrive as U-21 European champions and are boosted by overage wild-card forward Roy Makaay.

The USA is projected at No. 9 - behind Italy (4), which features New Jersey product Giuseppe Rossi, Nigeria (5), Cameroon (6), Serbia (7), Ivory Coast (8).

Coach Peter Nowak's Americans scored only six goals in their five qualifying games, but are boosted by overage striker Brian McBride. (Each team is allowed three wild-card players in what is a U-23 competition.)

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