Thursday 16 January 2020, 23:24

South America’s Olympic hopefuls battle for two berths 

  • South America's Olympic qualifying tournament starts this week

  • Ten teams will compete for two qualifying berths for Tokyo 2020

  • Colombia are the hosts with games taking place in Pereira, Armenia and Bucaramanga

The focus of South American football will shift to Colombia this weekend, when the country begins hosting the U-23 Olympic Qualifying Tournament that will decide the region’s two representatives at the Men's Olympic Football Tournament Tokyo 2020.

What you need to know

  • When: 18 January-9 February

  • Host cities: Pereira (Group A), Armenia (Group B) and Bucaramanga (final phase)

  • At stake: Two places at Tokyo 2020

  • Format: The ten teams will be split into two groups of five for the first phase, which employs a round-robin format. The top two from each section then advance to the final phase, where the quartet all play each other. The first and second-ranked sides after that will take the Olympic berths.

The groups

Group AGroup B
Chile 🇨🇱Brazil 🇧🇷
Colombia 🇨🇴Paraguay 🇵🇾
Ecuador 🇪🇨Bolivia 🇧🇴
Venezuela 🇻🇪Uruguay 🇺🇾
Argentina 🇦🇷Peru 🇵🇪
Venezuela s Ronaldo Pena (R) vies for the ball with Bolivia s Jose Maria Carrasco 

Players to watch

Adolfo Gaich (Argentina)

The centre forward made a fine impression at the FIFA U-20 World Cup Poland 2019, where he weighed in with three goals. Still only 20, he followed that up by breaking into the first team at San Lorenzo and making his debut in the senior Argentina team.

Jose Maria Carrasco (Bolivia)

An imposing central defender who is especially good in the air, this 22-year-old is an automatic starter with Bolivian outfit Blooming. After being named in the national team’s preliminary squad for the most recent Copa America, he made his senior team debut against France in June 2019.

Reinier Jesus (Brazil)

Despite just being on the verge of turning 18, this explosive, attacking midfielder is already being hailed as one of the great hopes of Brazilian football. Already a regular first-teamer with Flamengo, the club opted not to release him for last year’s FIFA U-17 World Cup, which Brazil won. His side’s subsequent 2019 Copa Libertadores and Brasileirao triumphs paved the way for an expected move to Real Madrid.

Gabriel Suazo of Chile (R) fights for the ball with Youssouf Barro of Burkina Faso

Gabriel Suazo (Chile)

A left-sided box-to-box midfielder with good judgement and shooting ability, Suazo is making a name for himself at Colo Colo, where he has already won five trophies. Captain of Chile’s U-23 side for this qualifying tournament, he made his full debut with La Roja back in 2017.

Jorge Carrascal (Colombia)

Skilful and extremely quick, fans have dubbed him the 'Colombian Neymar'. Now 21, he previously had stints in Spain and Ukraine before joining Marcelo Gallardo's River Plate, where he has already played first-team football and won two titles.

Moises Ramirez (Ecuador)

The 19-year-old was a key member of the Ecuador side that finished third at the FIFA U-20 World Cup Poland 2019. Agile and dependable, he is the first-choice keeper despite not currently playing with his club side Real Sociedad in Spain.

Santiago Arzamendia (Paraguay)

Arzamendia is a livewire left-back who is quick to close down opponents and adept at shooting. Now 22, he is well established at his club Cerro Porteno and has nine appearances under his belt with the senior national team, including four at the Copa America 2019.

Fernando Pacheco celebrates after scoring ay the 2014 FIFA Boys Summer Youth Olympic Football Tournament 

Fernando Pacheco (Peru)

A skilful and pacy winger, Pacheco also carries a goal threat and the ability to link up play. As a gold medal winner at the 2014 Youth Olympic Football Tournament, he went on to make a name for himself at Sporting Cristal and trained with the national team at Russia 2018, before joining Brazilian giants Fluminense this year.

Mathias Laborda (Uruguay)

Laborda is a right-back or central defender, the latter being a position he excels in for Uruguayan heavyweights Nacional. Powerful in the tackle and when anticipating danger, he also possesses a solid aerial game. Aged 20, he made an important contribution to his club side’s national league title in 2019.

Jan Hurtado (Venezuela)

An athletic and powerful forward, he was just 17 when he finished runner-up at the FIFA U-20 World Cup in 2017. His early promise earned him a move to Argentina’s Boca Juniors, where he has been since 2019. He has already made his debut with the senior national team.

Did you know?

  • This will be the 13th edition of the tournament, which has not been played since 2004

  • Brazil have won the tournament the most times (seven), followed by Argentina (four) and Paraguay (one)

  • Bolivia and Ecuador are the only two CONMEBOL teams yet to take part in a Men’s Olympic Football Tournament