The women’s and men’s soccer tournaments begin on NBCOlympics.com even before Friday’s Opening Ceremony, and the storylines are abundant.
MORE: Full Olympic soccer schedule
Sweden and South Africa kick off the women’s tournament at Noon EDT on Wednesday, with Team USA opening its run at 6 p.m. EDT against a strong New Zealand side.
The men begin Thursday at Noon EDT with Iraq facing Denmark.
Will Neymar help Brazil make amends for its poor Copa America Centenario?
The world superstar is here in Rio thanks to an agreement between Brazil and his club, Barcelona, which allowed him to suit up for the Olympics in exchange for his staying home from the Copa America Centenario. Brazil did poorly without its captain — and a host of other stars — and Neymar will hope that fellow full national teamers Marquinhos, Rafinha, and Felipe Anderson will tip the scales in the host nation’s favor.
How will Team USA fare in its first big tournament without Abby Wambach?
In reality, the United States won the 2015 World Cup without much help at all from its legendary striker, but this is the first truly big moment for the side without Abby Wambach. The USWNT’s Olympic record is patently absurd: 24 wins, 3 draws and 2 losses with a plus-35 goal differential which merited four golds and one silver. Rio should be no different, though a group with New Zealand, Colombia and mighty France makes a group win anything but certain.
Can Mexico’s men defend their unlikely gold from London?
Despite the presence of incredible long shot Fiji, Group C will be a tricky one to navigate for Mexico in its bid to win back-to-back golds. Germany boasts a strong squad and South Korea will be boosted by over-23 player Son Heung-min of Tottenham Hotspur.
All eyes will be on two players with vastly different experience levels. First: Oribe Peralta, 32, was a part of the 2012 team and has two CONCACAF Champions League titles to go with a Gold Cup and his gold medal. Then there’s 21-year-old Pachuca man Hirving Lozano, who has been linked with a big move, possibly to Manchester United.