World Cup stars who played in Olympics (photos)

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Soccer has mostly been a showcase for youth at the Olympics, with a rule limiting nations to a maximum of three players over age 23.

That has somewhat leveled the playing field — Nigeria and Cameroon won gold medals in 1996 and 2000 — and also provided international tournament experience to players would go on to become World Cup stars. This is apparent when looking at the 2014 World Cup squads.

One non-household name, the oldest player at the 2014 World Cup, 42-year-old Colombian goalkeeper Faryd Mondragon, was on Colombia’s roster at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics.

Here’s a gallery of this year’s World Cup stars who double as Olympians:

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FIFA Ballon d’Or winner Cristiano Ronaldo scored one goal for Portugal at the 2004 Olympics when he was 19, two years before his World Cup debut. Portugal is best known at those Athens Games for being upset by Iraq in their opener and being eliminated in the group stage.

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Four-time FIFA World Player of the Year Lionel Messi (seen here with World Cup teammate Sergio Aguero) scored twice during Argentina’s run to 2008 Olympic gold.

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Neymar, the star of the World Cup host nation, scored three times at the London Olympics. But Brazil couldn’t overcome Mexico in the gold-medal game. Brazil and Mexico will face off again at the World Cup on June 17.

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Recognize this American? That’s Michael Bradley, before he went bald, at the 2008 Olympics (with Japanese star Shinji Kagawa, also set to play at the World Cup). The U.S. failed to advance out of group play in 2008 (and didn’t qualify for the 2004 or 2012 Olympics). Also on that 2008 U.S. team were World Cup players Jozy Altidore and Brad Guzan. No. 1 U.S. goalie Tim Howard was on the 2000 U.S. Olympic Team that finished fourth, but he didn’t play (alas, no photos readily available). Omission Landon Donovan, too, was on the 2000 U.S. Olympic Team, when he had blond hair.

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Polarizing striker Luis Suarez was an over-23 player at the London Games, but it didn’t do Uruguay much good. The South American nation that made the 2010 World Cup semifinals lost to Senegal and failed to make it out of group.

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Xavi scored twice for silver medal-winning Spain at the 2000 Olympics, two years before he made his first World Cup team in 2002. The midfield maestro is pictured here with longtime South Korean star Park Ji-sung, who played at the 2002, 2006 and 2010 World Cups.

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Samuel Eto’o and Cameroon beat Xavi and Spain in the 2000 Olympic final. Both players scored in regulation (a 2-2 draw) and converted penalty kicks.

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Giovani dos Santos was part of Mexico’s gold-medal team at the 2012 Olympics, scoring three goals, but missed the final against Brazil due to injury.

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Andrea Pirlo is a two-time Olympian for Italy. He played in 2000, when Italy was eliminated by Xavi and Spain in the quarterfinals, and in 2004, when Italy won bronze. Also of note for Italy, longtime goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon was the youngest member of its 1996 Olympic roster at age 18.

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Didier Drogba is not an Olympian, but the Ivory Coast striker did take part in the 2012 Olympic torch relay.

Remembering the ‘Ohno celebration’ at 2002 World Cup

Coco Gauff upsets 9th seed to start French Open

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Coco Gauff notched yet another impressive Grand Slam match win, taking out ninth seed Jo Konta in her French Open main draw debut on Sunday.

Gauff, a 16-year-old American, upset the Brit Konta, a 2019 French Open semifinalist, 6-3, 6-3 on the first day of play at Roland Garros despite 12 double faults. Konta had 41 unforced errors to 22 winners.

“Every match is a great win,” said Gauff, the youngest player in either singles draw. “I don’t really take anything for granted because I’m just happy to be playing. I don’t think maybe winning Slams, matches at Slams is something I’m used to. Especially, this is my first main draw Roland Garros. When I’m on the court. I can act like I’m used to it. When I’m off the court, I’m just happy to be here.”

The clay-court Slam was postponed from May due to the coronavirus pandemic, is being held with damp temperatures in the 50s and has limited spectators to 1,000 per day.

“I’m pretty sure this is my first ever pro tournament, maybe even tournament in general, playing in weather like this,” said Gauff, noting she warmed up for 20 minutes before going on court so she could walk in with a sweat.

Gauff, the 2018 French Open junior champion, gets Italian qualifier Martina Trevisan in the second round after playing a match in leggings for the first time in about six years.

She’s coming off an impressive last year-plus, reaching the fourth round at the most recent Wimbledon and Australian Open. In between, she became the youngest WTA tournament champion since 2004. She recorded wins over Venus Williams and Naomi Osaka.

Gauff will bid over the next nine months to qualify for the U.S. Olympic team outright by being among the top four Americans in WTA rankings after the 2021 French Open. Therefore, her result at this French Open will not count toward Olympic qualifying.

She is currently ranked 51st overall and eighth among Americans.

FRENCH OPEN DRAWS: Men | Women | TV Schedule

Earlier Sunday, Williams finished her 2020 with a third first-round loss in as many Grand Slam tournaments — 6-4, 6-4 to Slovakian Anna Karolina Schmiedlova.

With the WTA’s autumn Asian swing canceled, Williams said she won’t play before next season starts in Australia.

Williams, 40 years old and ranked 76th, will need a scintillating start to 2021 to make the U.S. Olympic team in singles. She is currently the 14th-highest-ranked American. If she doesn’t make it in singles, Williams (or Gauff) could be chosen as a doubles-only player for the Tokyo Games.

Top seed Simona Halep took the last 10 games of her 6-4, 6-0 win over Spaniard Sara Sorribes Tormo. Halep, who is on a 15-match win streak dating to February, could play Gauff in the quarterfinals.

On the men’s side, Stan Wawrinka swept Andy Murray 6-1, 6-3, 6-2 in a battle of three-time major champions and a rematch of their life-changing 2017 semifinal in Paris.

“I need to have a long, hard think about it,” Murray said. “I don’t feel like the conditions are an excuse for it.”

It marked Murray’s first match on clay since that semi, won by Wawrinka in five sets. After that match three years ago, Wawrinka underwent two knee surgeries and Murray had two hip surgeries. Neither has made a Grand Slam semifinal since, and Murray nearly retired due to hip problems.

U.S. men went 3-0 on Sunday after winning one match total at the 2019 French Open.

The most notable victor: Sebastian Korda, the 20-year-old son of Czech 1998 Australian Open winner Petr Korda and brother of Nelly Korda, the world’s second-ranked female golfer.

Korda beat Italian veteran Andreas Seppi 6-2, 4-6, 6-3, 6-3 to become the youngest U.S. man to win a French Open main-draw match since 18-year-old Andy Roddick defeated Michael Chang in 2001.

Korda, after his first tour-level win, gets John Isner in the second round.

Serena Williams and Rafael Nadal, each trying to tie Grand Slam singles titles records, play first-round matches on Monday.

MORE: Halep, Comaneci and the genesis of a Romanian friendship

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Julian Alaphilippe wins world road race title with late attack

Julian Alaphilippe
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Julian Alaphilippe became the first Frenchman to win a road cycling world title in 23 years, attacking late and holding on to prevail by 24 seconds in Imola, Italy, on Sunday.

Alaphilippe, who wore the Tour de France yellow jersey for 16 stages between the last two years, went clear from a star-filled group at the top of the last climb with about eight miles left of a 160-mile day.

“It was a dream of my career, you know,” said Alaphilippe, whose best previous worlds finish was eighth. “I came here with, for sure, a lot of ambition. It’s just a dream day for me.”

Belgian Wout van Aert took silver, followed by Swiss Marc Hirschi in a five-man bunch sprint for the last two medals. Van Aert also earned silver in the time trial on Friday.

Slovenian Primoz Roglic, who was second in the Tour de France, finished sixth in the same time as the silver and bronze medalists after more than six and a half hours of racing.

The top American was Sepp Kuss in 52nd place, 12:35 behind.

Full results are here.

The last Frenchmen to win world titles were Laurent Brochard (road race) and Laurent Jalabert (time trial) in 1997.

Slovenian Tadej Pogacar, who won the Tour de France last Sunday, attacked with 26 miles left. He led by as much as 25 seconds before being reeled back in with about 13 miles to go.

The cycling season continues with the last two Grand Tours, each starting later than normal due to the coronavirus pandemic. The Giro d’Italia begins Oct. 3, and the Vuelta a Espana starts Oct. 20, before the Giro finishes.

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MORE: A more equal future for women’s cycling? Lizzie Deignan has high hopes