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Thursday 19 July 2012

Olympics graced by Barclays Premier League stars

Ryan Giggs, Craig Bellamy and Juan Mata among Premier League's Olympians

Juan Mata is looking to complete a 'perfect summer' by winning Olympic gold

The men's Olympic football tournament gets under way on July 26th with a number of Barclays Premier League players set to grace the global sporting showpiece.

No fewer than 31 Premier League players will be taking part in the Under-23 event with 10 of the 16 nations including representatives of England's foremost domestic club competition.

The lion's share of the league contingent (15 players) will available for selection for Team GB manager Stuart Pearce, whose side face a Senegal side including Everton's Magaye Gueye and Mohamed Diame of West Ham United in their opening match on the evening of Thursday July 26th.

Special occasion

This will be a particularly special occasion for Manchester United midfielder Ryan Giggs, who will lead the team out at his home ground, Old Trafford.

"It's been an eye opener, and really enjoyable as well"
- Ryan Giggs

My career for my country has obviously been the total opposite to the one for my club," said the Team GB captain. "I've been so successful with United but not so with Wales.

"I would always watch the other lads, especially those ones I grew up with, go away on international tournaments and wish that I could do the same.

"Unfortunately I never got the chance. But now I have even in the first few days together I've seen things that I haven't seen in my career. It's been an eye opener, and really enjoyable as well."

Giggs is joined by United team-mate Tom Cleverley, fellow Welshmen Craig Bellamy and Aaron Ramsey, of Liverpool and Arsenal respectively, Manchester City's Micah Richards and Daniel Sturridge and Ryan Bertrand of Chelsea.

Team GB take on the United Arab Emirates at Wembley Stadium on July 29th before concluding their Group A schedule three days later at the Millennium Stadium, against a formidable Uruguay side including Liverpool pair Luis Suarez and Sebastian Coates.

Group B's opening encounter between Mexico and the Republic of Korea will feature a hint of north London rivalry as Tottenham Hotspur's Giovanni Dos Santos will go head-to-head with Arsenal's Park Chu-Young, who is likely to be partnered by Sunderland striker Ji-Dong Wong.

Brazilian interest

The presence of Brazil will elicit a good deal of interest in Group C with the Selecao going for their first gold medal in the competition, helped by Rafael Da Silva of Manchester United, Tottenham Hotspur's Sandro and playmaker Oscar, who has been linked with a move to Chelsea.

Brazil begin their quest for glory against Egypt at the Millennium Stadium, before taking on Belarus at Old Trafford and then New Zealand at the Sports Direct Arena.

"If we win, it would be a perfect summer and a first season in England in which I couldn't have asked for more"
- Juan Mata

Fresh from winning UEFA EURO 2012 Spain head the billing in Group D with Chelsea's Juan Mata looking to thrive after marking his appearance in the European Championship final with a goal.

"Personally I've had a fantastic season," said the UEFA Champions League-winning midfielder, who at 24 is one of Spain's three overage players, “and if we win, it would be a perfect summer and a first season in England in which I couldn't have asked for more."

Mata, who is joined by club-mate Oriel Romeu and Manchester United goalkeeper David de Gea, will face a Japanese selection at Hampden Park on Thursday, before meeting Honduras in Newcastle three days later and then Morocco at Old Trafford on August 1st.

The teams that finish first and second in their sections will progress to the quarter-finals.

In the knockout matches the winners of the semi-finals go head-to-head in the gold medal match while the losing semi-finalists compete for the bronze medal.

Olympics squads featuring Premier League players

Group A
Great Britain
Ryan Giggs, Tom Cleverley (Manchester United); Micah Richards (Manchester City); Aaron Ramsey (Arsenal); Steven Caulker, Danny Rose (Tottenham Hotspur); Daniel Sturridge, Ryan Bertrand (Chelsea); Craig Bellamy (Liverpool), Joe Allen, Scott Sinclair, Neil Taylor (Swansea City), Craig Dawson (West Bromwich Albion); Jack Cork (Southampton), James Tomkins (West Ham United).

Senegal
Magaye Gueye (Everton); Mohamed Diame (West Ham United),

Uruguay
Sebastian Coates, Luis Suarez (Liverpool)

Group B
Mexico
Giovanni Dos Santos (Tottenham Hotspur)

Republic of Korea
Ji-Dong Wong (Sunderland); Park Chu-Young (Arsenal)

Switzerland
Benjamin Siegrist (Aston Villa); Pajtim Kasami (Fulham)

Group C
Brazil
Rafael Da Silva (Manchester United); Sandro (Tottenham Hotspur)

New Zealand
Ryan Nelson (Queens Park Rangers); Chris Wood (West Bromwich Albion)

Group D
Spain
David de Gea (Manchester United); Juan Mata, Oriel Romeu (Chelsea)

Honduras
Maynor Figueroa (Wigan Athletic)

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Key Points

  • 31 Premier League players will be going for gold
  • Ten of 16 nations include Premier League stars
  • Ryan Giggs, Luis Suarez and David de Gea involved