With Spain looking likely to claim top spot, Phil Kitromilides believes the battle for second place will be between Morocco and Japan and he's backing the Africans
The world and European champions are keen to maintain their iron grip on international football by adding an Olympic gold medal to their ever-expanding list of honours, and their vibrant and talented squad means they are one of the favourites to claim the ultimate prize.
Naturally this is a much-changed squad to the one that triumphed at Euro 2012 in Poland and Ukraine last month, yet stars like Juan Mata and Jordi Alba remain and with the exceptional triumvirate from Athletic Bilbao Javi Martinez, Iker Muniain and Ander Herrera giving the side balance, strength and depth, Spain have every chance of winning the tournament.
Firstly they must triumph in the group and Paddy Power offers them at 1/5 (1.20) to finish top, a price that though small looks fair.
Next in the betting come Japan, who are available at an optimistic 7/1 (8.00) to claim top spot, while the other sides in the group, Morocco and Honduras, can be backed at 15/2 (8.50) and 16/1 (17.00) respectively.
There is clearly very little value in backing Spain however much of a sure thing their winning the group appears, so instead it is perhaps wiser to look at the market of who will fail to qualify from the group.
Morocco are offered at 4/6 (1.67) to stumble out of the group, while Japan are priced at 8/11 (1.73) and a small investment in the Japanese's failure to progress could make things interesting.
Morocco kick off the tournament by playing their first match against Honduras, before Japan play Spain.
Should the Moroccans win and the Japanese succumb to an almost inevitable defeat against the world champions, it would put the Africans in an excellent position to qualify at the expense of the Samurai Blue.
With a squad made up almost entirely of players from Europe's top leagues, Morocco should prove tough opponents, and with the way the group is set up, Japan not to qualify looks like the best value bet around.
|Japan not to qualify at 8/11 (1.73) with Paddy Power|
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Phil Kitromilides is a sports broadcaster working on radio and TV in London and Madrid. You can also follow Phil on Twitter.