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Neymar, Mikel and the best performers at Rio Olympics

Monday 22nd August 2016

While Nigeria brought Honduras back to reality -  beating the Central Americans 3-2 in the bronze medal match - both games on Saturday.

As we all know, football is a team sport, but some team members however, are of more impact than the others. So, therefore, we x-ray seven of such players with the biggest impact at the Olympics.


He's the main reason Brazil finally won their first ever gold medal after 64 years. Barcelona superstar, Neymar, opted to ditch the centennial edition of the Copa America for the Olympics and his actions were absolutely vindicated. The 24-year-old as always, carried the hopes of millions of a football loving nation on his shoulder and this time, he surely didn't disappoint. Despite starting the tournament on a slow pace, the forward went ahead to score four goals including the opener against Germany in the final and was on hand to bury the winning spot-kick.

John Obi Mikel

Nigeria's inspirational skipper, John Obi Mikel, proved his wealth of experience as Nigeria won bronze at the showpiece. Despite the uncertainties surrounding his club career following the arrival of Antonio Conte at Chelsea, the 29-year-old went ahead to feature at his first Olympics. And as expected, he displayed great leadership skills on and off the pitch for the African side. Mikel even thrived in an unfamiliar attacking role for his team scoring once and assisting five others.

Max Meyer

Just like the aforementioned duo, Max Meyer was at the thick of things for his German side. Meyer was instrumental in his team's run to the final - scoring four times including a hat-trick against Fiji. He reminded the world why he's one of the most sort after youngsters in world football with his unbelievable dribbling skills, tricks and pace. No wonder at just 20, he has amassed almost a century of games for Schalke 04 and already capped by the senior national team. He was the first and only player to break an impenetrable Brazilian defence after about seven hours without conceding.

Gabriel Jesus

Another star who shone brightly as Brazil cruised to an historic gold medal was Gabriel Jesus. The 19-year-old forward occasionally took the burden off skipper Neymar by scoring three times himself. Jesus who joins Manchester City in January is already receiving plaudits from his soon to be manager, Pep Guardiola.

"He is little bit like Kelechi, Sergio," the Spaniard said. "When the ball is there, it's a goal. He has the sense of goal. So we buy goals, that's not easy today.”

Oghenekaro Etebo

Nigeria's participation was marred by internal crisis which resulted in the Africans arriving the tournament few hours before their first game against Japan. Despite the setback, one player achieved a milestone by becoming the first to score four goals in a single match at the Olympics - his name Oghenekaro Etebo. The Dream Team showed great attacking artistry to win 5-4 against the Asians with Etebo simply unmarkable. The 20-year-old Feirense attacking midfielder was instrumental as his nation progressed to the last eight but failed to feature from that point due to injury.

Serge Gnabry

Tournament top scorer, Arsenal forward, Serge Gnabry, notched six goals for Horst Hrubesch's team. This includes a pair of braces against Fiji and South Korea. It is also worthy of note that the 21-year-old originally started the tournament on the bench in his country's first game against Mexico. But less than 30 minutes, skipper, Leon Goretzka, got injured and Gnabry got his chance - making an immediate impact by scoring in the game. And after then the former Stuttgart star didn't look back.

Anthony Lozano

Honduras fairy-tale run to the semi-final made them the first Central American nation to achieve that feat. But it was one man, Anthony Lozano, who led the line for Los Catrachos.  Lozano orchestrated an electric counter-attacking display alongside strike partners, Alberth Elis and Romell Quioto. The Tenerife forward, who is already capped 18 times at international level, scored thrice in the tournament. Over time, Lozano has proven his goal scoring prowess dating back to his time with the U17's where he struck 11 times in just eight games.
Toby Prince

If the sport has 11-men on each side, a ball and lasts for 90 minutes then I'll write about it. Simply put, I'm an unrepentant soccer freak that other freaks will, however, call a geek. I do find time for music when not watching the beautiful game, though and have been known to produce the odd track. 

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