Rio 2016 Olympic GamesOne of the most interesting things about the early odds for the Olympic Games in Rio is that many of the bookmakers are tipping France as second favourites for the tournament. Yes, Team USA are clear on their own but you can find France listed at 8.00. When you take on board the fact that France still haven’t qualified for the tournament, these odds may be quite low. The French have to clinch qualification in the Philippines, and while they are tipped at 1.22 to do so, it is still a barrier that has to be overcome before they can seriously think about Rio.

At the moment, the French roster is down to 14 players but it won’t include Rodrigue Beaubois. Beaubois is a player with NBA experience, having spent time with the Dallas Mavericks, but he has made himself unavailable for the Olympic Qualifying Tournament saying that he has personal matters to attend to. There is no comment about whether he will make himself available should France progress to the Rio Games but you’d have to think that this would be harsh and unfair on some of the other players in the French squad.

The 14 player squad for the French lines up as follows:

Alexis Ajincas, Nicolas Batum, Nando De Colo, Boris Diaw, Antoine Diot, Mickael Gelabale, Thomas Heurtel, Edwin Jackson, Charles Kahudi, Joffrey Lauvergne, Adrien Moerman, Tony Parker, Florent Pietrus and Kim Tillie.

French team heads to Asia on Wednesday

The French team is currently in Rouen where they will take on Japan on Tuesday evening. When you look through the French squad, it is still an excellent team with Boris Diaw and Tony Parker bringing NBA experience to the side. There is also Nando De Colo who has been one of the most exciting Euroleague players in recent times. De Colo will be coming into this summer on a high thanks to the great form and Euroleague triumph of CSKA Moscow and he will be a player who will be desperate to make his mark in the summer months.

The French national team is in Rouen, where they to play their final preparation game against Japan on Tuesday night. Two players are expected to be removed from the squad before the team flies to Manila tomorrow in preparation for their stint in Group B at the tournament. France are lining up against the host nation and New Zealand while Group A features Canada, Senegal and Turkey. Canada and Turkey may pose a challenge to the French side’s hopes of making it to Rio but you have to fancy the French side to make it all the way through to Brazil.

Argentina look to be the best South American team

Given that the games take place in South America, it is not unreasonable to look towards a nation from South America to have a big impact on the tournament. You often look at the hosts and while the bookies have made Brazil fourth favourites for the tournament, this is more to do with their status as hosts as opposed to the quality or standard of their basketball team. The Brazil team may click on their home turf but in recent tournaments, they have failed to show the talent or fight required to grab a medal.

If there is going to be a South American team that clinches a medal, you’ll find that Argentina look to be the best bet.

It needs to be remembered that the Argentineans have been in the semi-finals in the last three Olympic basketball tournaments, taking medals in two of them. The 2012 London Games saw them finish in fourth place but the 2008 games saw them take bronze after clinching third spot with a win over Lithuania. Of course, it was the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens that will be best remembered considering this was the event Argentina brought home the Gold medal with a 84-69 win against Italy. This was a truly historic win and with Soviet Union and Yugoslavia no longer existing, Argentina are the only nation that current exists outside of the USA to have won the Gold medal at the Olympics!

Three of the players from that squad, Luis Scola, Andres Nocioni and Manu Ginobili are all included in the preliminary 20 player squad that has been named by Sergio Hernandez, the head coach for Argentina.

The 20 man squad for Argentina is as follows:

Roberto Acuna, Federico Aguerre, Nicolas Brussino, Facundo Campazzo, Gabriel Deck, Marcos Delia, Tayavek Gallizzi, Patricio Garino, Manu Ginobili, Nicolas Laprovittola, Leo Mainoldi, Marcos Mata, Andres Nocioni, Nicolas Richotti, Selem Safar, Javier Saiz, Leonel Schattmann, Luis Scola, Juan Pablo Vaulet and Luca Vildoza.

Nine players in this 20 man squad are currently with the national team in the South American Championship which is taking place in Veneuzeula. That tournament concludes on the 2nd of July and no doubt there will be a re-evaluation of fitness, form and desire to go once again in a big tournament. Of course, not many tournaments are bigger than the Olympics so you’ll find that plenty of people will be keen to get involved with the real action that takes place in Rio in August.

Manu Ginobili has big game experience

Emanuel 'Manu' Ginobili - ArgentinaOne player that looks desperate to get involved is Manu Ginobili. Ginobili grabbed the MVP of the Athens tournament in 2004 but he has been missing from major international competitions since 2012. He was intending to play at the 2014 FIBA World Cup but injury ruled him out, which means he will be extra keen to feature this time around. Ginobili is a well-known name and face from the NBA having been a major player for the San Antonio Spurs for many years.

Argentina will make their way to the United States on the 12th of July to continue their preparations for Rio. They’ll be based in Las Vegas and they have lined up friendlies against Nigeria, playing on the 18th and 20th of July while on the 22nd of July they take on the USA.

Argentina host some big games on their home turf before heading to Rio

After this, the Argentineans head home for a while and will host a tournament involving themselves Australia and Lithuania on the 26th and 27th of July. After this there will still be time for another major event because on the 29th and 30th of July and the 1st of August, Argentina will host a tournament featuring themselves and the three Olympic Qualifying Tournaments. At the moment, the bookies are backing Serbia, Italy and France to bag the last three qualifying spots for Rio.

Once that mini tournament is concluded, Argentina will head to Rio where they will join Group B. Their rivals in Group B are Spain, Nigeria, Lithuania and two of the Olympic Qualifying teams. This means that the only rival Argentina won’t be facing in the weeks before the main event are Spain, with every other team lined up to face off against the Argentineans in warm up mode.

If you like the sound of these preparations and believe that Argentina is ready to take home another Gold from the Olympics, you can back Argentina at odds of 23.00.