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London 2012: Ten to watch in the men’s tournament

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With the men’s football tournament underway at London 2012, the teams will be looking to put all their hard work into practice in pursuit of the gold medal.

Stuart Pearce’s Team GB are under no illusions just how hard a task that will be in front of a home audience with a recent friendly defeat to Brazil and Thursday's 1-1 draw against Senegal representing just how competitive Olympic football is this year.

Hope Powell’s Team GB women’s side kicked off the competition in fantastic fashion with a 1-0 victory against New Zealand courtesy of a Steph Houghton free-kick in Cardiff on Wednesday.

The men were looking to repeat this feat against Senegal on Thursday evening in their Group A opener at Old Trafford, but were denied by a late equaliser after Craig Bellamy's first half strike.

If Pearce’s side are to go all the way, they will need to be wary of the threats that the other sides in the competition embody.

Total Football’s Taylor Williams picks out 10 players to watch at this summer’s tournament.

Gaston Ramirez (Uruguay)

Whilst we all know what devastating front pairing Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani are capable of, we probably know a bit less about attacking fulcrum Gaston Ramirez of Bologna.

What we do know is that the attacking midfielder has recently attracted interest from Liverpool and Tottenham and that he has already won nine senior international caps for Oscar Tabarez’s side.

Wearing the number 10 shirt at the games, this tells you a lot about Ramirez in that he is an exciting playmaker capable of magic on his day. Certainly one to watch for Stuart Pearce and Team GB in the final Group A match.

Neymar (Brazil)

Does he need any more of an introduction? Neymar has bowled the world over with his extravagant array of skills and rapid pace, and seems destined to become a star of worldwide proportions.

The master himself Pele has already drawn comparisons between himself and the Santos star and it’s not hard to see why.

The 20-year-old shone in the recent friendly triumph over Team GB, scoring a penalty whilst popping up dangerously on either flank.

It remains to be seen what big club he will eventually join in Europe but the forward has already struck over 40 club goals since his debut three years ago.

Marco Fabian (Mexico)

It is certainly worth sitting up and taking notice of any striker that has scored 14 goals in 12 Under-23 matches as Mexico’s Marco Fabian is set to continue his hot vain in front of goal at London 2012.

The 23-year-old Guadalajara forward was top scorer at the 2012 Toulon tournament in which Mexico were crowned champions and the forward even scored against Team GB in a recent behind-closed-doors friendly in Marbella.

There have been a handful of Mexican stars who have graced the Premier League such as Jared Borgetti, Carlos Vela and Javier Hernandez but Marco Fabian could be the next, if he impresses at the games.

Kim Bo-Kyung (South Korea)

No flag mix up here. South Korea’s Kim Bo-Kyung is certainly one to watch at the games if you are of the Cardiff City persuasion.

On July 12, the Bluebirds agreed a fee for the Cerezo Osaka attacking midfielder with formal procedures believed to be taking place at present.

The 22-year-old will take his place alongside Arsenal’s Park Chu-Young and Celtic’s Ki Sung-Yueng, but it is believed he is to make a greater impact in Europe after rejecting the chance to join Monaco before confirming his desire to switch to South Wales.

With Cardiff City’s Malaysian owners wanting to build a more multi-national squad down in the Welsh capital, they will be keeping a close eye on their imminent acquisition.

Kosta Barbarouses (New Zealand)

Wellington native Kosta Barbarouses recently secured a loan switch to Athens giants Panathinaikos for the 2012/13 campaign and this exciting switch is no surprise considering the striker has struck four goals in five Under-23 appearances so far.

Before Barbarouses turned professional, he plied his trade for a couple of local semi-professional clubs but it wasn’t too long before the Kiwi made his name in the Hyundai A-League for Wellington Phoenix and then Brisbane Roar.

His form at the Queensland-based club earned him a move to Europe for Russian outfit Alania Vladikavkaz but after an underwhelming period in Russia, Barbarouses will look to recapture his once-potent scoring form at the games.

Ganso (Brazil)

With Chelsea eyes keenly on Oscar and Manchester United eyes keenly on his team mate Lucas Moura, there is a plentiful supply of exciting attacking talent at the disposal of Mano Menezes’ Brazil going into the games.

One that has been spoken about less in recent weeks is Ganso, who is familiar to European audiences following a few overtures from big clubs in England, Spain and Italy.

Ganso is a classic attacking midfielder in the Kaka and number ten mould and at six foot, commands power and strength when bursting forward to support the attack.

The Santos man has been long mooted for a move to Europe alongside Neymar and Arsenal have been mentioned in regards to a move already this summer.

The attacking midfielder is set to be a mainstay in the Selecao set up for the 2014 World Cup and far beyond.

Islam ‘Milo’ Ramadan (Egypt)

Egypt coach Hany Ramzy has included European-based players Ahmed Hegazy of Fiorentina and Mohamed Salah of FC Basel in his squad for the games but it is 21-year-old Islam Ramadan of Alexandria-based club Haras El-Hodood that has received substantial attention.

The left back known as ‘Milo’ came to the attention of English audiences earlier this summer when various press associations revealed Arsenal were tracking the defender as well as European giants Benfica, Sporting Lisbon and Lyon.

The player later revealed his personal desire to join the Gunners but he will be hoping for an impressive games in order to push forward any such deal.

Iker Muniain (Spain)

Spain won Euro 2012 in glorious fashion earlier this summer and their Olympics squad has every chance of claiming the gold medal after naming a competitive-looking squad heading into the tournament.

Familiar faces such as David De Gea, Oriol Romeu, Juan Mata and Jordi Alba make up the squad but amidst their array of talent, Iker Muniain is a potential match winner on his day.

The pintsize Basque attacker has substantial experience. playing over 90 games for his native Athletic Bilbao whilst competing in competitions such as the UEFA Europa League.

Muniain (pictured) may have already had more caps for Vicente Del Bosque’s senior side had it not been for their embarrassment of riches in the forward ranks.

He has managed one appearance at senior level, but the player known as ‘Bart Simpson’ given his likeness to the cartoon character will be looking to further bolster his burgeoning reputation for Luis Milla’s Olympic outfit.

Zakaria Labyad (Morocco)

Despite being just 19, Sporting Lisbon’s Zakaria Labyad has sampled first team football for a little while now having emerged through PSV Eindhoven’s youth structure in 2009.

Labyad will ply his trade in the Portuguese capital going forward after signing a five year contract at the Jose Alvalade in April and the small forward capable of playing through the centre or the wings is a tricky customer, possessing close control and a variety of skills.

Labyad might not have played for Morocco after appearing for the country of his birth – the Netherlands at Under-17 level, but following a call in 2011, Labyad switched his allegiance to the Lions of the Atlas.

Admir Mehmedi (Switzerland)

Yugoslavian-born Admir Mehmedi is one of the most exciting prospects coming out of Switzerland after making his name at FC Zurich in 2008.

The 20-year-old’s talents weren’t a secret for long as he was snapped up by Ukrainian giants Dynamo Kiev during the January transfer window.

The striker already has previous experience of playing in a tournament and was part of the Swiss squad that finished runners-up to Spain in the 2011 European Under-21 championships.

Mehmedi has also mastered the step up to senior international level and has already amounted ten senior caps for Ottmar Hitzfeld’s side, appearing for his debut against England in a Euro 2012 qualifying match at Wembley.

By Taylor Williams - Follow me on Twitter @Taylor_Will1989 - Visit my blog:

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