Four EFL players – and one player from the sixth tier of English football – are braced for the start of the Tokyo Olympics.
The spectacle finally gets underway this week after being delayed by a year due to the pandemic. Nevertheless, the 32nd edition of the Games has been shrouded in controversy, amid rising Covid rates among athletes and staff and vocal opposition to the staging of the tournament by Japanese politicians and residents.
In addition, all events will be played behind closed doors after spectators were banned.
The men’s football tournament will see 16 national sides compete. Team GB will not be participating but the women’s team successfully qualified and began their tournament earlier today.
The favourites for the men’s edition are holders Brazil, who are heavily fancied to retain their title. Australia get their campaign underway tomorrow morning and have six English-based players in the squad.
Three of them ply their trade in the EFL, whilst one represents National League South side Ebbsfleet United.
Goalkeeper Jordan Holmes was born in Sydney but joined Bournemouth’s academy at the age of 16.
He never made an appearance for the Cherries and was loaned out to Weymouth, Eastbourne Borough and St Mirren before departing in 2019.
He joined up with Ebbsfleet that summer but the two years since have seen the National League disrupted heavily since the pandemic, with consecutive seasons being curtailed.
That’s hardly been ideal preparation for Holmes and it appears his club future is uncertain too. Ebbsfleet chief Dennis Kutrieb recently said: “Jordan is the only one that we don’t know exactly yet if he stays in Australia or comes back to us after. We’ve got something in mind but we have time and don’t need to rush anything.”
Holmes sat on the bench for a couple of recent friendly internationals as Australia tune up for their Olympics opener against Argentina on Thursday.
Whilst Holmes may not necessarily expect to get game-time in Japan, Stoke City defender Harry Souttar looks a good bet to start tomorrow.
The Potters’ giant centre-half has a handful caps for the senior side, and even scored in his first two outings before being named in the Olympics squad.
Birmingham’s Riley McGree is another with senior experience who is in contention for tomorrow’s opener.
The 22-year-old is on a 12-month loan at City from American side Charlotte FC.
He will be hoping for match minutes during the three group games, which also see Graham Arnold’s side take on Egypt and Spain.
The other EFL player in the Aussies’ 23-man squad is Charlton’s rookie stopper Ashley Maynard-Brewer.
He hasn’t yet appeared for the Addicks but was number two towards the end of last season. He recently started two of Australia’s tune-up games, but like Holmes, is expected to warm the bench with Melbourne’s Tom Glover expected to get the nod.
The other EFL player involved in the Olympics extravaganza is Swansea City goalkeeper Jamie Searle.
The 20-year-old is one of three stoppers chosen by New Zealand for their campaign, which begins on Thursday morning against South Korea.
He joined Aston Villa in 2019 and made two outings in the EFL Trophy before signing for the Swans last summer.
He recently agreed an extension and will be hoping that success out in Japan is followed by a breakthrough campaign in South Wales next year.
The men’s group stage begins on Thursday, July 22 and concludes on Saturday, August 7.
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