Beijing boys take centre stage
© AFP

Over five months have passed since Argentina edged Nigeria under Beijing's scorching noonday sun at the Bird's Nest Stadium, claiming their second straight Olympic gold. Since then, a good number of the U-23 starlets have propelled themselves off the East Asian Olympic springboard to consistent club success. FIFA.com takes a look at some of the Beijing babes and their post-Olympiad progress.

Led by former Super Eagle favourite Samson Siasia, Nigeria brought verve and style to Beijing. One of the silver medallists' standouts, Chinedu Ogbuke Obasi, is currently firing on all cylinders with shock German Bundesliga leaders Hoffenheim. The speedy striker, also at home in a wide midfield role, is second top scorer at the upwardly mobile club with six strikes this term. He is a regular in the senior Nigerian national team along with Victor Obinna, who scored three for Nigeria at the Olympics and recently made a move from Chievo to Serie A high-flyers Inter Milan.

Nigeria were not the only African side to shine at the Asian finals. Côte d'Ivoire - who went out at the quarter-final stage to Nigeria - sent Solomon Kalou back to impress at English Premier League giants Chelsea. Over in France, zippy winger Gervinho has proved a dynamic figure at Le Mans with four goals so far this term. Cameroon also provided a few Beijing 2008 Alumni to the ranks of France's Ligue 1. Nikolas Nkoulou has stepped into the first team and is looking a future standout for Monaco, but the most impressive post-Beijing performer from the Indomitable Lions' ranks would have to be Alexandre Song. Nephew of the iconic Rigobert, he has stepped up manfully into Arsenal's midfield following a string of injuries to Arsene Wenger's Premier League side.

Belgium, whose international reputation has fallen off since the days of Enzo Scifo and Jean Marie Pfaff in the 1980s, were one of the surprise packages of the finals. Marouane Fellaini, effective and peerless in the air, signed a contract with English Premier League side Everton after Beijing, despite being sent off in Belgium's first match and playing no further part in the side's run to the semi-finals. Vincent Kompany suffered the same fate as Fellaini and, after being red carded in the opener with Brazil, was called back to his club Hamburg. He has since been shipped to newly rich Manchester City, where he is garnering plaudits and marshalling the midfield. Moussa Dembele, who scored twice to steer the Belgians past Italy in their 3-2 quarter-final thriller, has also been linked with a move to England from Dutch Eredivisie leaders AZ Alkmaar, where he lines up alongside teammate Maarten Martens.

Italy showcased a handful of youngsters in Beijing who are now moving up through the Serie A ranks. Diminutive playmaker Sebastian Giovinco has put himself in the reckoning at Juventus (after a loan spell at Empoli) while Giuseppe Rossi continues to be a fan favourite goal-getter at Villarreal in Spain.

Although the USA just missed out on a place in the knockout rounds, Jozy Altidore has become the first American player to break through into Spain's La Liga, even opening his scoring account alongside Rossi at Villarreal. Sasha Kljestan, who scored a pair of goals in Beijing and showed tremendous vision in midfield, is currently a transfer target for Glasgow giants Celtic - the city where centre-half Maurice Edu lines up for rivals Rangers. Michael Bradley, a fully established senior international, anchors the midfield of Bundesliga outfit Borussia Monchengladbach after moving on from a successful stint in Holland.

One of the teams that ensured the USA did not reach the second round of Beijing 2008 were Group B mates, the Netherlands. Among the hugely talented side that eventually lost out to Argentina in the quarter-final, the pair of Hedwiges Maduro (Valencia) and Royston Drenthe (Real Madrid) are finding their feet in Spain's ultra-competitive top flight, while Ryan Babel continues to play his part out wide amidst Rafael Benitez's Liverpool rotation policy.

Despite the deep stable of talent on display in Beijing this summer, South America's representatives were, by far, the most star-studded. Before picking up an injury, Brazil's Anderson was firmly established in Manchester United's midfield while Selecao teammates Jo and Lucas have also made inroads in the Premier League with Manchester City and Liverpool respectively.

First in line, though, were the dazzling talents of gold-medal winners Argentina. Lionel Messi returned to Barcelona, where he is currently playing the best football of his life for the runaway La Liga leaders, only just missing out on the FIFA World Player of the Year prize for 2008. In the Spanish capital, Sergio Aguero - who scored two goals for Argentina in Beijing - is leading Atletico Madrid's scoring charts by a large margin while, across town, Gago has established himself as a first team player for Juande Ramos' rebuilding Real Madrid.

The Argentine influence is not restricted just to Spain. Ask fans of Napoli, that have embraced Ezequiel Lavezzi with abandon, who their current hero is. Since his return from Beijing duty he has scored five goals for the southern Italian outfit.

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