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Paris Olympics: What to know and who to watch during the mens soccer competition

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A roadmap to follow for men’s soccer during the Paris Olympics:

Athletes to Watch

—Bradley Barcola, France: One of France’s rising stars, Barcola joined Paris Saint-Germain last year as part of the club’s push for young, homegrown talent following the departures of icons like Lionel Messi and Neymar. Kylian Mbappe’s exit this year should provide more room for the forward to establish himself as one of PSG’s biggest talents. The Olympics is an opportunity to showcase his ability to a wider audience.

—Kevin Paredes, United States: USA’s young player of the year in 2023 is gaining attention and has joined the likes of Vinicius Junior and Kevin De Bruyne by signing with Jay-Z’s Roc Nation sports agency. Capable of playing at left back or as a winger, the Wolfsburg player already has broken through to the United States’ senior national team.

—Claudio Echeverri, Argentina: The 18-year-old Echeverri’s potential already has been spotted by Manchester City, and he will complete a move to the Premier League team ahead of next season. An attacking midfielder, he helped Argentina reach the semifinals of the U17 World Cup and could be one of the star players at the Olympics.

Storylines to Follow

—The U.S. men’s national team is back at the Games for the first time since 2008. The Americans benefited from soccer’s regional governing body CONCACAF deciding to make the 2022 edition of its Under-20 Championship a qualifying event for the Olympics. The U.S. won it for a third time in a row to book its place for Paris. It faces host nation France in its opening game of the tournament.

—Israel has waited even longer to make a return to the Games, having been absent since 1976. While that is a cause for celebration for the national team, there already have been calls from protestors in France for Israel’s participation to be limited because of the war in Gaza.

—World champion Argentina can add to a glorious era of success by winning gold in Paris. Argentina beat Brazil 1-0 in the 2021 Copa America final, and then won the World Cup a year later in Qatar. Argentina defends the Copa America in the United States before the Games begin — but Olympic gold would complete the set over a spectacular three-year period.

—The Olympics has produced unlikely gold medalists in men’s soccer such as Nigeria and Cameroon. Will there be another surprise package in Paris? Perhaps Morocco, which finished a surprising fourth at the 2022 World Cup, will go on another run.

Key Dates

The tournament begins on July 24, with France taking on the United States and Argentina facing Morocco in the biggest games of the day. The final is on Aug. 9 at Parc des Princes in Paris.

Reigning Champion

Brazil (Did not qualify).

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