Olympic Tournament History

 

Paris 1900 || St. Louis 1904 || Athens 1906 || London 1908 || Stockholm 1912 || Antwerps 1920 || Paris 1924 || Amsterdam 1928 || Berlin 1936 || London 1948 || Helsinki 1952 || Melbourne 1956 || Rome 1960 || Tokyo 1964 || Mexico City 1968 || Munich 1972 || Montreal 1976 || Moscow 1980 || Los Angeles 1984 || Seoul 1988 || Barcelona 1992 || Atlanta 1996 || Sydney 2000 || Athens 2004 || Beijing 2008 || London 2012 || Rio de Janeiro 2016

 

 

GAMES OF THE II OLYMPIAD (PARIS 1900)

 

The first olympic football tournament (then called “association football”) was contested in 1900 in Paris, although it was merely a demonstration sport which complemented the main event of the World Fair in the French capital. In fact, it was not a “tournament” proper, because the three participant clubs (not national squads) played only two games. Although no medals were awarded in this competition, the IOC (International Olympic Committee), in an effort to reconcile the early Olympiads with the modern Games, currently credits the countries represented by these three teams with gold, silver and bronze medals, according to their final classification.

 

FINAL STANDING

1.

Great Britain

2.

France

3.

Belgium

 

 

GAMES OF THE III OLYMPIAD (ST. LOUIS 1904)

 

As in the previous edition of the Olympic Games, football was a mere demonstration sport in St. Louis and no medals were awarded. Only three teams (two from the United States and another from Canada) joined the competition

 

FINAL STANDING

1.

Canada

2.

USA

3.

USA

 

 

INTERIM OLYMPIAD (ATHENS 1906)

 

Although Athens 1906 is not considered an “official” Olympiad and is often referred to as the “Interim Olympics” (as it was intercalated between the official ones of St. Louis 1904 and London 1908), the disastrous organization of the two previous editions of 1900 and 1904 (when the Games were just a secondary event to the World Fair of Paris and St. Louis) made Pierre de Coubertin agree to the Athens Games, where the Olympiads were the main event.

 

The football games were played on the infield of a velodrome (Podilatodrómio), and during the matches the spectators sat on the edges of the track. The tournament was not very remarkable and the games were poorly attended, probably because the “local” teams (one from Athens and two from Greek-Turkish cities belonging to the Ottoman Empire) were no match for the Danish select, which won the competition very easily. In the final between the Greek and the Danish teams, the former showed little olympic spirit and abandoned the game at halftime to preserve their dignity after a scandalous 9-0 score in the first 45 minutes; later, they refused to enter a playoff with the other two teams to decide the second place of the tournament and were disqualified.

 

FINAL STANDING

1.

Denmark

2.

Ottoman Empire

3.

Ottoman Empire

4.

Greece (dk.)

 

 

GAMES OF THE IV OLYMPIAD (LONDON 1908)

 

London 1908 was the first official football tournament contested in the Olympic Games, as for the first time the participating countries were represented by national squads (instead of local clubs, as before). Another novelty was the presentation of gold medals to the winners, who were an amateur team of Great Britain (which represented England and Ireland in the Olympic Games). In the semifinal against Denmark and a French select (France competed with two national squads), the Danes set an olympic scoring record by winning 17-1, with center-forward Sophus Nielsen scoring ten of these goals.

 

FINAL STANDING

1.

Great Britain

2.

Denmark

3.

Netherlands

4.

Sweden

5.

France “A”

6.

France “B”

 

 

GAMES OF THE V OLYMPIAD (STOCKHOLM 1912)

 

For the first time in the olympic football tournament, gold, silver and bronze medals were presented to the first three teams. Great Britain (represented by English players) renewed their olympic title easily with a 4-2 victory in the final against Denmark, who played with only ten men for all the second half after Charles von Buchwald had to leave the game through injury. In the consolation series, German forward Gottfried Fuchs equalled the olympic scoring record of Sophus Nielsen four years ago by scoring ten goals in a single game.

 

FINAL STANDING

1.

Great Britain

2.

Denmark

3.

Netherlands

4.

Finland

5.

Hungary

6.

Austria

7.

Germany

8.

Italy

9.

Sweden

10.

Russia

11.

Norway

 

 

GAMES OF THE VII OLYMPIAD (ANTWERPS 1920)

 

Due to the increasing popularity of football after World War I, the 1920 olympic tournament was played in three different venues: Antwerpen (host city), Bruxelles and Gent. As in previous editions, not all the world’s top football nations were present in the competition: Germany and Hungary were not invited because of their role in World War I and Great Britain sent a weak amateur squad because they were no longer a FIFA member. A proof of the popularity of football in the world was the fact that the Spanish national team was created in 1920 specifically to participate in the Olympic Games.

 

The final between host Belgium and Czechoslovakia was full of incidents. Before the game, the Czechs expressed their discontent with the selection of the referee, the Englishman John Lewis, because he had been the victim of violence at a match in Prague and they feared he could be prejudiced against them. Six minutes before halftime, after having a player sent off, the Czech team abandoned the game in protest for what they considered a biased refereeing, and could not be convinced to return to the pitch, given the menacing attitute of the local crowd and the Belgian soldiers. After this, Czechoslovakia were disqualified from the tournament and the organizers adopted an emergency solution in order to assign the silver medal: they upgraded the original Consolation Series for the bronze medal to a tournament for places 2 and 3. Spain won the series final and therefore, somehow unexpectedly, grabbed the silver.

 

FINAL STANDING

1.

Belgium

2.

Spain

3.

Netherlands

4.

France

5.

Sweden

6.

Italy

7.

Norway

8.

Egypt

9.

Yugoslavia

10.

Denmark

11.

Great Britain

12.

Luxembourg

13.

Greece

14.

Czechoslovakia (dk.)

 

 

GAMES OF THE VIII OLYMPIAD (PARIS 1924)

 

The 1924 olympic tournament can be considered, in view of the great number of participants (22), the first major international football championship, six years earlier than the inception of the World Cup. The usual European powers (with the exception of England, whose professional players were not accepted by FIFA) were joined by the South American champion, Uruguay, who turned out to be the sensation of the tournament, with an attractive and skilful play that mesmerized the European spectators. The Uruguayans also introduced some elements of modern football, like a doctor and a physiotherapist to supervise the condition of the players and a pre-tournament concentration in a quiet place far from the city.

 

Led by playmaker Andrade (aka “The Black Pearl”) and propelled by the goals of Petrone and Scarone, Uruguay rolled over their opponents with clear victories in the first rounds (7-0, 3-0, 5-1). In the semifinal, Holland proved to be a harder rival to beat, but two second-half goals from Cea and Scarone (the latter from a penalty kick much protested by the Dutch) qualified Uruguay for the final, where they easily won Switzerland. As a curious note, the Olympic Committee originally selected a Dutch referee for the final, but then the Uruguayans protested (after their polemic victory against Holland in semifinals) and a new referee was appointed by drawing his name from a hat.

 

FINAL STANDING

1.

Uruguay

2.

Switzerland

3.

Sweden

4.

Netherlands

5.

Italy

6.

France

7.

Irish Free State

8.

Egypt

9.

Czechoslovakia

10.

Hungary

11.

USA

12.

Bulgaria

13.

Luxembourg

14.

Romania

15.

Belgium

16.

Latvia

17.

Spain

18.

Estonia

19.

Turkey

20.

Poland

21.

Yugoslavia

22.

Lithuania

 

 

GAMES OF THE IX OLYMPIAD (AMSTERDAM 1928)

 

Uruguay repeated their success and captured their second consecutive olympic gold medal, although this time they found more opposition in arch-rivals Argentina, who forced a replay final. The likes of Mazali, Nasazzi, Andrade, Scarone and Petrone, experienced survivals from the 1924 team, were instrumental in the Uruguayan victory, which was even more remarkable considering the strong opposition they found in their way to the final: hosts Netherlands in the first round, Germany in the quarterfinals (before the Germans became a major force in European football), a strong Italy in the semifinals (in one of the greatest football games in history) and a spectacularly offensive Argentina (25 goals) in the final. Even with the absence of England (who withdrew from FIFA in February 1928 following their disagreement on the application of professionalism in olympic football), the tournament represented “de facto” a World Championship, and it wouldn’t be too long (only two years) before international football expanded beyond the narrow confines of the Olympiads and found their own territory in the World Cup, open to the best professional players of the world.

 

In an all-South-American olympic final, Uruguay and Argentina, two teams who knew each other well, played to a 1-1 draw after regulation and extra-time. The game was not as attractive as expected, and after 120 minutes both teams only managed to score once. As penalty shoot-outs had not yet been introduced in football, they had to meet again three days later for a replay final. In this game Uruguay, using five fresh players, obtained a hard-earned victory. The Uruguayans dominated the first half, which nevertheless ended 1-1. In the second half, despite playing very offensively, Argentina allowed Scarone to score the winner after a counterattack. Only two years later, Uruguay and Argentina would meet again in the final of the first edition of the World Cup in Montevideo, where the Uruguayans reached their peak in international football.

 

The sensation of the tournament was Egypt, who reached the semifinals and earned the admiration of the Dutch spectators with their lively play (they were cheered on by a “Go Tutankhamen!” from the stands).

 

In addition to the olympic competition, a consolation tournament was held in Rotterdam and Arnhem (mostly to allow the local fans to watch more games of Holland, after the early elimination of the hosts). Although it was later ratified by FIFA, it was not organized by the Amsterdam Olympic Committee, so it shouldn’t be considered part of the Olympic Games.

 

FINAL STANDING

1.

Uruguay

2.

Argentina

3.

Italy

4.

Egypt

5.

Portugal

6.

Spain

7.

Germany

8.

Belgium

9.

Netherlands

10.

Chile

11.

France

12.

Luxembourg

13.

Yugoslavia

14.

USA

15.

Turkey

16.

Switzerland

17.

Mexico

 

 

GAMES OF THE XI OLYMPIAD (BERLIN 1936)

 

Due to the growth of professionalism and the increasing difficulties the IOC were facing to define the olympic concept of “amateur player,” football was not included in the 1932 Games of Los Angeles. But the influence of this sport was unstoppable in the world, as no other olympic event generated as many revenues, and football was reinstated in Berlin 1936, although with amateur rules enforced: players were not allowed to receive any compensation, including wage compensation paid to their clubs. This ruling caused several European countries to withdraw their entries, and most South American teams forfeited as well. Some nations (like Great Britain and Austria) eventually sent a team to Berlin, although it was by no means their A squad, but an amateur B list.

 

A major surprise occurred in the first round of the tournament, when medal favourites Sweden were eliminated by Japan, despite leading 2-0 at halftime. Another Scandinavian team, Norway, caused a shock by eliminating the home team in the quarterfinals (the Germans were so sure of their victory that they fielded many substitute players). The match was attended by German chancellor Adolf Hitler, who reportedly left the stadium early in anger. The most notable match, however, was another quarterfinal, Peru vs. Austria: the South Americans, coming from 0-2 behind, won after extra-time, but the Jury of Appeal ordered the replay of the game due to pitch invasion and attacks on Austrian players, and Peru withdrew in protest. Back in Lima, the decision to replay the match caused riots at the German and Austrian embassies, and it created a legend in Peru that Adolf Hitler himself, infuriated by the Austrian defeat (his native country), ordered the replay of the game.

 

Austria and Italy, without their best professional players, met in the final. The Italians, coached by Vittorio Pozzo, were in the middle of one of their most glorious periods (they had won the World Cup in 1934 and would do the same again in 1938). The tournament top scorer Annibale Frossi (remarkable for wearing a headband and glasses during the games) opened the score midway the second half, but Austria equalized soon after and the game was sent into extra-time. Only two minutes into the additional period, Frossi scored the winner by netting a rebound ball, and the exhausted Austrians were unable to crack their opponent’s defense in the remaining minutes.

 

FINAL STANDING

1.

Italy

2.

Austria

3.

Norway

4.

Poland

5.

Peru

6.

Germany

7.

Great Britain

8.

Japan

9.

Sweden

10.

USA

11.

Egypt

12.

China

13.

Hungary

14.

Finland

15.

Turkey

16.

Luxembourg

 

 

GAMES OF THE XIV OLYMPIAD (LONDON 1948)

 

During the olympic interim caused by World War II (1936-1948), professionalism had taken a hold on football and the game had grown stronger than ever. The olympic tournament paid the consequences, and in the coming years it would be dominated by Eastern European teams, where athletes were sponsored by the communist governments to keep their amateur status. In fact, Sweden was the only western country to win a gold medal in the period spanning from the post-war years to the 1984 Games in Los Angeles.

 

The competition, held at London and various sub-venues throughout South England, was brilliantly won by Sweden, after scoring 22 goals in only four games (in fact, it turned out to be the highest scoring olympic tournament, with 102 goals in 18 games). The Swedes took advantage of the fact that their Football Association forbade professionalism in their domestic competitions, and with a group of talented amateur players who would later on turn successful professionals (such as Gunnar Gren, Gunnar Nordahl and Nils Liedholm, the famous GRE-NO-LI attacking trio of AC Milan), Sweden became worthy winners, with a polished ball control and teamwork.

 

In addition to the Swedish success, London 1948 was also remarkable for the exceptional performances put up by Yugoslavia, Denmark, Korea and India (whose players, according to an Indian custom, played barefoot, although several had their feet bound in bandages to make up for lack of footwear). Not much was expected from host Great Britain, made up of amateur players from England, Ireland, Wales and Scotland (even though they were coached by the great Matt Busby). Perhaps the best single game of the competition was the quarterfinal between Denmark and Italy, in which the Danes won by 5-3 after a tremendous seesaw match.

 

From the technical point of view, the tournament also saw new tactical formations and styles of play: Sweden’s game was modelled on that of the modern English professional teams; Denmark combined the fast open style of British football with the looser marking and carefree shooting so typical of the amateur; Austria stuck to the old-fashioned attacking centre-half; Yugoslavia represented the slow but slick game of the Eastern European teams; Italy showed the close marking of their “WM” formation. The exotic touch of the competition was provided by the barefoot Indians, the close passing of the Chinese and Koreans and the ball jugglery of the Egyptians.

 

FINAL STANDING

1.

Sweden

2.

Yugoslavia

3.

Denmark

4.

Great Britain

5.

Italy

6.

Turkey

7.

France

8.

Korea

9.

Luxembourg

10.

Netherlands

11.

India

12.

Mexico

13.

Egypt

14.

Austria

15.

China

16.

USA

17.

Ireland

18.

Afghanistan

 

 

GAMES OF THE XV OLYMPIAD (HELSINKI 1952)

 

The 1952 olympic football tournament saw the birth of one of the most prodigious teams ever, Hungary, soon to be known as the “Mighty Magyars”. Led by the fabulous Ferenc Puskás and talents such as Bozsik, Hidegkuti, Kocsis and Czibor, the Hungarians won the gold medal in an impressive way, with five consecutive wins, 20 goals scored and only 2 received. Although they had been undefeated for more than two years, their confinement beyond the Iron Curtain didn’t call the attention of football media before. Following their olympic success, however, the world realized the potential of Hungary, and their legend really began in 1953 after their superb 6-3 victory in Wembley against England. Virtually the same squad was expected to take home the 1954 World Cup in Switzerland, but they were upset in the final by West Germany, in what became known as the “Miracle of Bern”.

 

For the first time since World War II, teams from Eastern Europe entered the olympic football tournament. Although nominally amateurs, most of their players were able to dedicate all of their time to sports, paid by the State, so actually the difference between “amateur” and “professional” was quite blurred in these countries. Thus, teams from the Communist Block would dominate olympic football tournaments until amateur restrictions were lifted in 1984.

 

Hungary was undoubtedly the best team in the Helsinki Games. Without being weak anywhere, the “Mighty Magyars” derived most of their power from the forward line, and here, clearly outstanding, were the two insides: Puskás and Kocsis. Yugoslavia, the other finalists, survived an early scare when they needed a tie-break to eliminate the Soviet Union, after a game in which the Yugoslavs were leading 5-1 and let their rivals off the hook to equalize 5-5. Worth noting is that they used the same eleven in all their six matches. As for the rest of the participants, outsiders Luxembourg eliminated an amateur Great Britain in the preliminary round (not so great a surprise, really), Egypt (a classic in the olympic tournament) stunned Chile, and India continued their tradition of playing barefoot (which costed some of their players frost-bite, bruisings and contributed to a 10-1 loss against Yugoslavia). In a competition in which a single defeat spells elimination, fickle fortune may cause a really brilliant team to drop out of the running at a very early stage, and conversely allow a moderately good team to advance as far as the semifinals. On this occasion Bulgaria, Romania, the USSR and Italy all met their fate earlier than they deserved. With better luck in the draws, any one of these might have successfully contested for the medals.

 

The final between Hungary and Yugoslavia was a brilliant exhibition of Central-European football, with an imaginative pattern-play and close passing. It was a beautiful game for the impartial Finnish crowd of almost 60,000 people, with cultivated, intelligent and skilful football. Neither team strayed into the deliberate fouls and displays of temper which often mar matches where so much is at stake. After a goalless first half, the Hungarian captain and inside-left, Puskás, made a solo dash which took the Yugoslavian defense by surprise. Two minutes before the final whistle, Czibor secured the gold medal for Hungary with a second goal.

 

FINAL STANDING

1.

Hungary

2.

Yugoslavia

3.

Sweden

4.

FRG

5.

Brazil

6.

Denmark

7.

Austria

8.

Turkey

9.

Soviet Union

10.

Italy

11.

Luxembourg

12.

Egypt

13.

Poland

14.

Finland

15.

Dutch Antilles

16.

Norway

17.

Chile

18.

Bulgaria

19.

France

20.

Greece

21.

Romania

22.

Great Britain

23.

Netherlands

24.

USA

25.

India

 

 

GAMES OF THE XVI OLYMPIAD (MELBOURNE 1956)

 

For the first time, a qualifying stage was devised by FIFA to bring down the number of participants to 16 (and thus have a regular competition system with three rounds before the final), but due to the many withdrawals and the reluctance of some other teams to make the long journey to Australia in mid-season, in the end the organizers had to adapt the competition system to the remaining eleven participants. For geographical reasons, some newcomers from East Asia filled the vacancy of the traditional European and American powers. In this juncture, the olympic tournament in Melbourne was one of the weakest in the history of the competition. Particularly regrettable was the absence of the title holders, Hungary, after the Soviet invasion of their country. Nonsurprisingly, the three Eastern European participants—USSR, Yugoslavia and Bulgaria—took gold, silver and bronze medals, since the amateur British and Germans or the Asian teams were no match for the football skills of their top players.

 

The Soviet Union won the gold medal deservedly, but in their way to victory they had to overcome tough games against Germany’s ruggedness, Indonesia’s obstinacy (the Asians even forced a replay after a 0-0 with as many as ten defenders in their penalty area and a lone striker upfield), Bulgaria’s brilliance (after extra-time) and Yugoslavia’s determination. The runners-up, Yugoslavia, had an easier road to the final, but in the decisive game they missed some of their key players, left in Europe due to World Cup commitments, and had to settle for their third consecutive silver medal. The bronze went to Bulgaria, who were regarded by many experts as top favorites. India (whose players were finally wearing boots due to FIFA impositions) produced a relative surprise by stunning hosts Australia and earning a fourth place.

 

The best game of the tournament was the semifinal USSR-Bulgaria, in which both teams displayed continuous speed, superb ball control, exquisite positional play and physicality during 120 minutes.

 

FINAL STANDING

1.

Soviet Union

2.

Yugoslavia

3.

Bulgaria

4.

India

5.

Great Britain

6.

Australia

7.

Indonesia

8.

USA

9.

FRG

10.

Japan

11.

Thailand

 

 

GAMES OF THE XVII OLYMPIAD (ROME 1960)

 

After the previous “experiment” in 1956 of a qualifying stage before the olympic tournament in order to bring down the number of teams to 16, this time FIFA had the time and the political quietness to conduct a real pre-olympic stage with participants from all five continents. Another major innovation was the replacement of the knock-out rounds for preliminary round-robin pools, with teams divided in four groups of four each, and the group winners qualifying for semifinals. As for player eligibility, the emergence of modern professional football and the overshadowing presence of the World Cup led FIFA to introduce a minor change in the previous rule (only amateur players were admitted in the olympic tournament, professionals were excluded): only those amateur players who had not been registered for the final stage of the precedent World Cup—in this case, Sweden 1958—were eligible, professionals continued to be excluded).

 

Hungary, olympic winners in 1952, were again the favorites in 1960, even though they had lost the core of their amazing “Mighty Magyars” after the Hungarian Revolution. However, they were halted in their way to the final by a surprising Danish amateur side, who won a thriller of a semifinal in which both teams missed a penalty kick. In the other semifinal Italy, featuring future stars like Gianni Rivera and Giovanni Trappatoni, drew 1-1 with Yugoslavia after 120 minutes. Although FIFA rules at the time stipulated a tie-break in situations like this (still in the era before the advent of penalty shoot-outs), the busy olympic programme dictated that the winner had to be decided on a coin toss. Yugoslavia won this draw, and therefore progressed to their fourth consecutive olympic final… where they wouldn’t be denied this time.

 

In the decisive game, Yugoslavia got off to an excellent start and took a 2-0 lead after only eleven minutes. Shortly before halftime Kostić scored the third, but the Italian referee Lo Bello disallowed it for offside (even though the linesman didn’t signal for it). The Yugoslavs surrounded Lo Bello to complain bitterly for this decision, and captain Milan Galić was sent off for insulting him. Even one man down, Kostić would make it 3-0 for Yugoslavia midway the second half. Denmark’s only goal came too late, and the talented Balkan team claimed their first olympic gold.

 

FINAL STANDING

1.

Yugoslavia

2.

Denmark

3.

Hungary

4.

Italy

5.

Bulgaria

6.

Brazil

7.

Argentina

8.

Great Britain

9.

France

10.

Poland

11.

Peru

12.

India

13.

UAR

14.

Turkey

15.

Tunisia

16.

Formosa

 

 

GAMES OF THE XVIII OLYMPIAD (TOKYO 1964)

 

Continuing their dominance in olympic football, five teams from Eastern Europe qualified for the 1964 tournament and three of them finished in medal position: Hungary, Czechoslovakia and Germany (unified team composed only by East German players). The only Western European team to qualify after the pre-olympic tournament, Italy, was disqualified after an IOC investigation revealed that several of their “amateur” players had in fact competed for Italy’s major teams. On the Asian side, North Korea withdrew from the tournament as some of their athletes had competed in the 1963 edition of the GANEFO (Games of the New Emerging Forces) and were declared ineligible by the IOC. So the original 16 teams were reduced to 14 in a tournament held in Tokyo and subvenues, although the competition system remained unchanged.

 

In addition to the Eastern European teams, the tournament also showed the emergence of the new African football. A classic like Egypt (now known as United Arab Republic) reached the semifinals for the second time in their history (the first occasion being in 1928), and Ghana produced the biggest surprise of the competition by reaching the quarterfinals.

 

The final between Hungary and Czechoslovakia was illustrative for the entire tournament, with unattractive play and constant foul interruptions. Ferenc Bene, the tournament top scorer with 12 goals, was again on target and scored the decisive goal to give Hungary the gold medal. In a rather undistinguished tournament, the most remarkable game was a wild 6-5 victory of Hungary over Yugoslavia.

 

FINAL STANDING

1.

Hungary

2.

Czechoslovakia

3.

Germany

4.

UAR

5.

Romania

6.

Yugoslavia

7.

Ghana

8.

Japan

9.

Brazil

10.

Argentina

11.

Mexico

12.

Iran

13.

Morocco

14.

South Korea

15.

Italy (disqualified)

16.

North Korea (withdrawal)

 

 

GAMES OF THE XIX OLYMPIAD (MEXICO CITY 1968)

 

After a long period of connivance and uncertainty, new regulations in the olympic football tournament finally made it clear that all non-amateur players—including those who had actively participated in World Cup games—were barred from the competition. Whereas this new ruling didn’t affect much the selection process of the big football names in America and Western Europe, whose amateur players were restricted to the olympic team, it was of greater consequence for the Eastern European nations, whose players were sponsored by the government to keep their amateur status while competing at high level. Title holders Hungary, for example, had to leave some of their key players at home (like Ferenc Bene, Flórián Albert and Máté Fenyvesi). Even like this, the Eastern European “amateurs” had no difficulty again in dominating the olympic tournament, and the final was played by Hungary and Bulgaria.

 

Mexico 68 will be remembered as a tournament full of incidents, including a disgraceful final with as many as four players sent off. Trouble started before the beginning of the competition, when Morocco refused to play against Israel and withdrew from the tournament (they were replaced by Ghana, who had lost the pre-olympic qualifier to the North Africans). In the game Israel-Ghana, there was some free-for-all fight among players, and two members of the Ghana team attacked the referee at the end of the match. Later, the Israelis were unlucky to be eliminated in the quarterfinals by the drawing of lots. During Mexico’s 2-0 loss to Japan in the bronze-medal game, irate fans at the Azteca Stadium threw cushions onto the field to protest a call.

 

The final game between Hungary and Bulgaria also had its share of incidents. With the Hungarians leading 2-1 before halftime, Tsvetan Veselinov was sent off for a tackle from behind. A second expulsion soon followed, when Ivkov committed a rough foul. This angered his teammate Mikhajlov, who shot the ball towards Mexican referee De Leo. While De Leo could not see the offender, the linesman was paying attention, and Mikhajlov was duly sent off, leaving the Bulgarians with only eight men at halftime. Hungary had no difficulty in adding two more goals in the second half to easily won the game 4-1 (although they did not finish unscathed either, Menczel following the three Bulgarians into the dressing-room before the final whistle).

 

In the middle of all these incidents, the surprise of the competition was Japan, who won the bronze medal thanks mostly to the tournament’s top scorer, Kunishige Kamamoto, who scored seven of his country’s nine goals. Hungarian defender Dezső Novák gained a rare and unique distinction by becoming the only football player to win three olympic medals: a bronze (1960) and two golds (1964, 1968).

 

FINAL STANDING

1.

Hungary

2.

Bulgaria

3.

Japan

4.

Mexico

5.

Spain

6.

France

7.

Guatemala

8.

Israel

9.

Czechoslovakia

10.

Colombia

11.

Brazil

12.

Ghana

13.

Guinea

14.

Nigeria

15.

El Salvador

16.

Thailand

 

 

GAMES OF THE XX OLYMPIAD (MUNICH 1972)

 

Although the number of teams remained unaltered (16), the main novelty introduced in the 1972 edition was a semifinal round-robin after the preliminary round, instead of the single-elimination quarterfinals and semifinals, so that group winners accessed directly to the final and runners-up played for the bronze medal. Another consequence of this new competition format was a rule stipulating that, should one of these two final matches end in a tie after extra-time, no replay would be necessary and both teams would receive gold or bronze medals ex æquo. This rule, however, had a negative effect on the consolation final between the Soviet Union and East Germany, as both teams were tied after ninety minutes and then gave up completely their attacking intentions during extra-time, not willing to risk losing a bronze medal they both would get, while the crowd booed at them.

 

As in previous editions, the tournament was dominated by Eastern European teams, who finished in the top four positions. Hungary (twice olympic champion in 1964 and 1968) and Poland (considered the best team of the tournament, with future stars like Grzegorz Lato) reached the final. Although the Polish trailed at halftime, two goals of the tournament’s top scorer Kazimierz Deyna in the second half secured the first gold medal for Kazimierz Górski’s team. Two years later, in the same venue and with the same competition system, Poland finished third in the World Cup held in West Germany, with many of the players who became olympic champions in 1972.

 

FINAL STANDING

1.

Poland

2.

Hungary

3.

Soviet Union

3.

GDR

5.

Denmark

6.

FRG

7.

Mexico

8.

Morocco

9.

Burma

10.

Malaysia

11.

Colombia

12.

Iran

13.

Brazil

14.

USA

15.

Sudan

16.

Ghana

 

 

GAMES OF THE XXI OLYMPIAD (MONTREAL 1976)

 

The olympic football tournament of 1976 was plagued by withdrawals, as the Games in general suffered the first of three consecutive major boycotts. Uruguay, who had earned qualification in the South American Pre-Olympic Tournament, withdrew one month before the competition, and following successive refusals of other South American teams who were invited to replace the Uruguayans (Argentina and Colombia), FIFA finally awarded their berth to Cuba (so the Central American zone had unusually three participants in the olympic tournament). The three African entrants (Ghana, Zambia, Nigeria) also withdrew from the competition as part of a general boycott against the participation of apartheid South Africa in the Olympic Games; as this withdrawal was announced only one day before the opening ceremony, these teams could not be replaced on time and the tournament was reduced to only 13 participants, with no major effect on the competition system other than three of the Preliminary Round groups having only three teams each.

 

As in previous editions, the Eastern European teams completely dominated the competition, with East Germany, title-holder Poland and the Soviet Union grabbing the three metals. The first two teams had kept in the Olympic Games the same basic team which two years earlier had successfully competed in the World Cup, and reached the final with relative ease. Although the Poles had impressed in 1974, finishing in the third position, they were now out of shape, and were no rival for the most powerful East Germans, who stroke twice in the opening 15 minutes and closed the score six minutes from time, after Lato had netted Poland’s only goal.

 

As for the rest of teams, although the olympic regulations prevented the participation of most world-class players, the tournament served as a springboard for the international careers of young talents who would become in time football stars, like the 21-year-old French midfielder Michel Platini, 18-year-old Mexican striker Hugo Sánchez or 22-year-old Spanish goalkeeper Luis Arconada.

 

In general, the football tournament in Montreal proved to be of high quality, despite the rainy weather which dampened the games. For the first time in the competition, doping control was rigorously enforced. Tests were made on two players per team in the Preliminary Round and quarterfinals, three players per team in the semifinals, and four per team in the final. Players to be tested were chosen by lot fifteen minutes before the end of a game and were required to be available for testing within the hour. All results were negative.

 

FINAL STANDING

1.

GDR

2.

Poland

3.

Soviet Union

4.

Brazil

5.

France

6.

Israel

7.

Iran

8.

North Korea

9.

Mexico

10.

Guatemala

11.

Cuba

12.

Spain

13.

Canada

14.

Ghana (withdrawal)

15.

Zambia (withdrawal)

16.

Nigeria (withdrawal)

 

 

GAMES OF THE XXII OLYMPIAD (MOSCOW 1980)

 

The 1980 olympic football tournament was marked by the massive boycott to the Games, which resulted on the withdrawal of almost half of the 16 qualifiers: Norway, Argentina, USA, Egypt, Ghana, Malaysia, Iran. Once more, the Eastern European participants had no problem in taking all three medals, especially after a FIFA Congress decision in 1978 imposed new restrictions to the eligibility of players from South American and European confederations who had participated in World Cup qualifiers or final rounds. The multiple absences made the competition not very attractive from the technical point of view, in spite of which the football tournament set a new record of attendance to the five stadiums, with 1,821,624 spectators―representing about 35.48% of all the tickets sold for the entire Games.

 

East Germany reached their second consecutive final with a whole new set of players, but it was Czechoslovakia, in their third olympic final, who won the gold medal thanks to a single goal by substitute Jindřich Svoboda, who scored only four minutes after entering the game. The final, played under pouring rain, proved to be the best match of the whole tournament, especially as far as tactics were concerned. Both teams knew each other well and played careful and disciplined football, trying to adapt to the difficult conditions underfoot by keeping the ball low. The first half was one of caution and discipline, with hardly any initiatives or creative ideas for producing surprise moves. The second half was more lively, with Czechoslovakia and East Germany making more use of the open spaces, their moves showing more imagination and greater freedom of action. After their respective playmakers (Berger and Steinbach) were sent off in minute 58 following a punch exchange, the Czech coach reacted smartly by introducing a new midfielder (Petr Němec) to take the role of Berger; on the East German side, the dismissal of Steinbach was not covered by another playmaker. The second Czechoslovakian substitution in minute 73, Svoboda for Vízek, was amply rewarded, as it was the former who scored the only goal of the match just four minutes later.

 

FINAL STANDING

1.

Czechoslovakia

2.

GDR

3.

Soviet Union

4.

Yugoslavia

5.

Iraq

6.

Kuwait

7.

Cuba

8.

Algeria

9.

Finland

10.

Spain

11.

Colombia

12.

Venezuela

13.

Nigeria

14.

Syria

15.

Zambia

16.

Costa Rica

 

 

GAMES OF THE XXIII OLYMPIAD (LOS ANGELES 1984)

 

In view of the many restrictions imposed by the “amateur-only” rule in the olympic football tournament—which in previous editions had heavily favored Eastern European countries (whose players were professionals in all but name)—for the first time in the history of the competition the IOC allowed professional players to compete. However, it was agreed with FIFA that, in order to avoid conflicts and preserve the primacy of the World Cup as the main international football event, in the particular case of Europe and South America federations the olympic competition would be restricted to players who had not previously participated in the preliminary and/or final round of the FIFA World Cup. This new olympic ruling was downgraded, however, by the absence of the strong Eastern European countries (like title holders Czechoslovakia, East Germany or the USSR), who had joined the Soviet Union boycott to the Games in “retaliation” for the American and Western withdrawals in Moscow four years earlier. Even with these absences, Los Angeles 1984 raised the football standards in relation to previous editions.

 

Another main novelty was the decision to grant the organization to the United States, a country were professional football (or soccer) was growing into a mass event. The unprecedented attendances (equal to all other olympic events combined) awoke FIFA to the potential of football in the US, and laid the groundwork to persuade the International Federation in 1988 to award the 1994 World Cup to the United States. The final game, with 101,799 spectators, set a new attendance record in the history of the olympic football tournament.

 

France, whose “A” team had won the European Championship one month earlier, completed a magic year by also becoming olympic champions. After a sluggish start in the preliminary round (one win and two draws), they picked up steam in the knock-out rounds, with clear victories over Egypt and Yugoslavia before reaching the final. The other finalists, Brazil (who was known as “Sele/Inter”, because most of their players came from SC Internacional of Porto Alegre), had an opposite progress: they swept through the qualification round and then had more difficulties in the elimination round (including a penalty kick scare against Canada).

 

As in previous editions, the olympic tournament served as a springboard for the international careers of young talents who were on the brink of stardom: Franco Baresi and Aldo Serena (Italy), Roger Milla (Cameroon), Dunga (Brazil), Andreas Brehme (West Germany)…

 

FINAL STANDING

1.

France

2.

Brazil

3.

Yugoslavia

4.

Italy

5.

FRG

6.

Chile

7.

Egypt

8.

Canada

9.

USA

10.

Norway

11.

Cameroon

12.

Morocco

13.

Costa Rica

14.

Iraq

15.

Qatar

16.

Saudi Arabia

 

 

GAMES OF THE XXIV OLYMPIAD (SEOUL 1988)

 

The new olympic football regulations introduced in 1984 regarding eligibility of players also applied in 1988: all professional players were eligible for the football tournament, except those of Europe and South America who had participated in the World Cup (however, in case they had played less than 90 minutes in a single World Cup match, they were still eligible for the olympic tournament). This was meant to attract an even larger interest from all the continental confederations (especially the African football, who had already shown their potential in the 80s).

 

Zambia, led by Kalusha Bwalya, was the major surprise during the group stage, finishing first in their group with an impressive 4-0 victory over Italy’s young professional players. The semifinals were closely contested, as the Soviet Union only defeated Italy after overtime and Brazil needed penalty shots to triumph over the West German team. The final, too, went into overtime. Romário, the tournament’s top scorer and future star with Barcelona and Brazil, opened the score at the half hour, but Igor’ Dobrovol’skij equalized with a penalty kick in the second half. The score remained 1-1 until extra-time, when substitute Yurij Savichev scored the winner. It was the USSR’s second olympic title (after 1956), and Brazil’s second consecutive final loss.

 

Many of the medal winning players went on to have great professional careers. Three West Germans (Klinsmann, Häßler and Riedle) played for the German team that won the World Cup in 1990, while four Brazilians (Taffarel, Jorginho, Romário and Bebeto) would lift the same trophy in 1994. The 1988 olympic champions, after the disintegration of the Soviet Union, never won another major title, although Mikhajlichenko had played and lost the final of the European Championship earlier in the year.

 

FINAL STANDING

1.

Soviet Union

2.

Brazil

3.

FRG

4.

Italy

5.

Zambia

6.

Sweden

7.

Australia

8.

Argentina

9.

Iraq

10.

Yugoslavia

11.

South Korea

12.

USA

13.

Tunisia

14.

China

15.

Nigeria

16.

Guatemala

 

 

GAMES OF THE XXV OLYMPIAD (BARCELONA 1992)

 

Once more, the regulations concerning the status and availability of players were changed for the 1992 Olympic Games. FIFA, fearing that competition from an “open” Olympics would diminish the prestige of the World Cup, forced an agreement with the International Olympic Committee in which only under-23 players could compete in the Olympic Games (in both the final stage and the qualifying rounds). In the particular case of Europe, in order to alleviate the overloaded competition calendar, it was established that the UEFA U-21 Championship would double as European Pre-Olympic Tournament.

 

72 years after their only previous olympic football medal (silver in Antwerp in 1920), Spain won the gold in front of a home crowd of 95,000 spectators at the Camp Nou of Barcelona, in one of the best finals in recent olympic editions. And they did it in a dramatic fashion, thanks to a last-minute goal by Quico, after rallying from a 1-0 deficit at halftime against a surprisingly strong Polish team, who capitalized on their game control when Kowalczyk finished a counterattack in injury time of the first half, somewhat against the run of play. After the interval, once King Juan Carlos and the Royal Family had entered the stadium, Abelardo equalized with a characteristic header, and Quico completed the Spanish comeback five minutes later. But Poland didn’t give up, and Staniek equalized again. Both teams then tried to score the winning goal and there was plenty of action on both ends, with the two goalkeepers making some splendid saves. But just when it seemed that the final would go into extra-time, Quico brought ecstasy to the local fans with a last-minute winner, chipping a loose ball over the Polish goalkeeper.

 

If Spain found a smooth road to the final (all victories with no goals received) it was mostly a result of their solid backline and the good work of goalkeeper Toni, who set a new olympic record with an unbeaten streak of 495 minutes. Ghana, with the youngest team by far in the competition (an average of 18.8 years), was one of the most pleasant surprises of the tournament, as they finished in third place and became the first African team to win an olympic football medal.

 

Although Barcelona 92 was a success from the technical point of view, with some very attractive games and a demonstration of modern attacking football, the organizers and FIFA were seriously disappointed with the overall attendance (especially in comparison with the two previous editions in Moscow and Los Angeles): only 466,300 spectators attended the 32 games, with a match avereage of 14,572.

 

FINAL STANDING

1.

Spain

2.

Poland

3.

Ghana

4.

Australia

5.

Sweden

6.

Paraguay

7.

Italy

8.

Qatar

9.

USA

10.

Mexico

11.

South Korea

12.

Egypt

13.

Denmark

14.

Colombia

15.

Morocco

16.

Kuwait

 

 

GAMES OF THE XXVI OLYMPIAD (ATLANTA 1996)

 

In order to re-capture the public interest for the olympic tournament, the IOC and FIFA reached an agreement to relax once more the rules for eligibility, and now each team was allowed to register three players older than 23 (only in the final stage of the competition, not in the qualification games), and also nominate up to four “stand-by” players for late replacements.

 

Brazil, one of the pre-tournament favorites (with the likes of Bebeto and Ronaldo), suffered a shocking defeat against Japan in their opening game, but they recovered to reach the semifinals, where they lost to Nigeria after an incredible comeback of the Africans (“Golden Goal” in extra-time included), in one of the greatest olympic matches ever. The Nigerian “Super Eagles”, already very successful in youth categories and with a team composed of star players from several European leagues, completed their wonder tournament by winning the gold medal against Argentina, and thus becoming the first African olympic champion. Nigeria fell behind twice (the second time after a dubious penalty call) before Daniel Amokachi tied the game in the 74th minute and Emmanuel Amuneke scored the game winner in the last minute.

 

FINAL STANDING

1.

Nigeria

2.

Argentina

3.

Brazil

4.

Portugal

5.

France

6.

Spain

7.

Mexico

8.

Ghana

9.

Japan

10.

USA

11.

South Korea

12.

Italy

13.

Australia

14.

Tunisia

15.

Saudi Arabia

16.

Hungary

 

 

GAMES OF THE XXVII OLYMPIAD (SYDNEY 2000)

 

For the second time, the olympic football tournament was organized around an age limit of 23, with three “over-age” players allowed. In addition, four alternative players of unlimited age (3 outfielders + 1 goalkeeper) were on standby as replacements for teammates injured during the competition. Although the olympic tournament had become “de facto” the unofficial U-23 World Cup, it was still denied a similar status to that of the top football competition, as some clubs refused to release their players for the tournament, or even the players themselves were not interested in participating (this affected particularly the African teams).

 

The presence of four national squads from four different Confederations in the semifinals (Spain, Cameroon, Chile and the USA) proved the fast development of football all over the world. Only a few of the early favorites progressed to the later stages of the tournament, with the notable exclusions of Brazil, Italy and Nigeria. The African football showed again their dominance in youth categories, as Cameroon successfully emulated Nigeria’s feat in 1996 by winning the gold medal. The use of over-age players highlighted an important statistic: three of the four semifinalists (Chile, USA and Cameroon) all used “over 23” players in a selective way to gain a tactical advantage on the basis of the experience they had to offer.

 

The olympic tournament meant yet another disappointment for Brazil, who failed to win the only major title missing in their collection. As in Atlanta 1996, the Brazilians were favored to finally win an olympic gold medal, but went out by a “Golden Goal” against another African team.

 

The final between Spain and Cameroon was a real thriller. The Spaniards went ahead by a goal from Xavi, and missed the opportunity to double the lead when 16-year-old goalkeeper Idriss Kameni stopped a penalty. Gabri then made it 2-0 just before halftime, seemingly sealing Spain’s second olympic title after 1992. But the Indomitable Lions fought back, and scored two goals within five minutes in the second half. Gabri was then sent off for a flying tackle, followed by his teammate José Mari when he received his second yellow card in injury time. This left Cameroon in charge during extra-time, and they appeared to have won when a “Golden Goal” by star attacker Samuel Eto’o was controversially disallowed for offside. After 120 minutes, penalty shots had to decide the champion for the first time in an olympic football final. All Cameroonians scored, while central defender Amaya missed for Spain.

 

FINAL STANDING

1.

Cameroon

2.

Spain

3.

Chile

4.

USA

5.

Italy

6.

Brazil

7.

Japan

8.

Nigeria

9.

South Korea

10.

Honduras

11.

South Africa

12.

Kuwait

13.

Slovakia

14.

Czech Republic

15.

Australia

16.

Morocco

 

 

GAMES OF THE XXVIII OLYMPIAD (ATHENS 2004)

 

For the second time in the history of the competition (after 1928), two South American teams played the final (which came as no surprise really after their success in the recent U-17 and U-20 World Cups). Argentina justified their tag as the tournament favourites, and proved their superiority on the field by winning their first gold medal with an unbeatable record of 6-0, scoring 17 goals without conceding a single one. The Argentines had indeed an impressive squad, with some world class players like Boca Juniors’ forward Carlos Tévez (top scorer of the tournament with eight goals), Valencia’s defender Roberto Ayala, Manchester United’s new defender Gabriel Heinze, Wolfsburg’s midfielder Andrés D’Alessandro and Internazionale’s winger Cristian “Kily” González. The gold medal also earned some of their young teammates transfers to major European teams.

 

The other finalist, Paraguay, also helped to underline the superiority of South America in this edition of the olympic tournament. The experience of defender Carlos Gamarra and forward José Saturnino Cardozo (second to Tévez as leading scorer with five goals) was a decisive factor on their way to the final. Bronze medal winners, Italy, entered the tournament with big expectations after winning the European U-21 Championship, but were unlucky to meet the unstoppable Argentines in the semifinals. However, the sensation of the tournament was Iraq, who finished in fourth place despite preparation conditions that were far from satisfactory in a war-ravaged country. The African teams, traditionally heavy contenders in the olympic tournament, were somewhat disappointing in this edition, as Ghana, Tunisia and Morocco were all eliminated after the Group Stage, and Mali followed the same fate in the quarterfinals.

 

All in all, the 2004 olympic football tournament was not a great success. Most of the matches were very poorly attended, and the quality level of the competition was low, which made some observers call for the sport to be excluded from future olympic events.

 

FINAL STANDING

1.

Argentina

2.

Paraguay

3.

Italy

4.

Iraq

5.

Mali

6.

South Korea

7.

Australia

8.

Costa Rica

9.

Ghana

10.

Morocco

11.

Mexico

12.

Tunisia

13.

Japan

14.

Portugal

15.

Greece

16.

Serbia-Montenegro

 

 

GAMES OF THE XXIX OLYMPIAD (BEIJING 2008)

 

The “U-23” system of the olympic football tournament, which so far had seemed ideal to reconcile the different needs of the IOC, FIFA and the clubs, posed some serious problems prior to the Games. A major discussion ensued when several European clubs threatened not to release their players to compete in the Olympiad, because they needed them for the preliminary rounds of Champions League and UEFA Cup. The clubs argued that the olympic tournament was not on the official international calendar, and thus they were not required by law to release their players, whereas FIFA claimed that this competition had been “unofficially” on the calendar for years, and clubs were obliged to release them. Eventually, the case was taken to the TAS (Tribunal Arbitral du Sport), which decided in favour of the clubs. Although most players were not affected by this ruling and could travel to Beijing, a few were forced to stay in Europe (even with their passports confiscated by the clubs’ officials) or were recalled during the olympic tournament. One of the most significant cases of players affected by this controversy was that of FC Barcelona stars Messi and Ronaldinho, although in the end they could participate in the Olympic Games: the Argentinian was eventually allowed to compete, whereas the Brazilian completed a transfer to AC Milan just before the tournament.

 

Brazil, always a serious contender in the olympic tournament, was looking to finally win the gold medal that had eluded them for decades, with the help of Ronaldinho and the new Brasilian star, Alexandre Pato. Defending champion Argentina was also favored in the expert pools, after winning the U-20 World Cup in 2007. The chart of favorites was completed by the African sides (Nigeria and Cameroon), Italy and the Netherlands.

 

In a highly anticipated match, Brazil and Argentina, with all victories so far in the tournament, met in one of the semifinals. However, the game turned out to be a fairly one-sided affair, with Argentina beating their South American neighbors 3-0. In the other semifinal, Nigeria made short work of Belgium, who had surprisingly eliminated Italy in the quarterfinals.

 

In the final, a replay of the 1996 edition, Nigeria and Argentina were evenly matched in the first 45 minutes, with very little goalmouth action as both teams were feeling the effect of the sizzling heat―the final started at noon for TV requirements and the referee had to stop the game twice for a rare drinking break―and slowed down their pace trying to preserve energy. In the second half, Argentina came out looking the fresher of the two, and had a more attacking formation, with Riquelme and Messi pulling the strings. From a well-worked counterattack in minute 58, Messi managed to play an inch-perfect through ball to Di María, who raced in from a deep position and, displaying fine skill, chipped the ball over the advancing keeper Vanzekin for the winner. Nigeria pressed hard in the final half hour but were unable to complete the same comeback as in 1996, as their forwards lacked the finishing touch.

 

FINAL STANDING

1.

Argentina

2.

Nigeria

3.

Brazil

4.

Belgium

5.

Italy

6.

Ivory Coast

7.

Netherlands

8.

Cameroon

9.

USA

10.

South Korea

11.

Australia

12.

Serbia

13.

China

14.

New Zealand

15.

Japan

16.

Honduras

 

 

GAMES OF THE XXX OLYMPIAD (LONDON 2012)

 

As in the previous edition of the tournament, the lack of a fixed policy regarding eligibility of football players for the Olympic Games was a serious handicap for several squads (especially the African teams, who missed some key players after their clubs refused to release them for the summer event). Despite recent criticism claiming that football shouldn’t be included as an olympic discipline in view of this lack of regulation by FIFA, the London tournament proved once more that the “king of sports” is one of the most popular games, with the largest overall attendances of all the olympic events (an average of 47,660 fans per match).

 

Before the tournament, Brazil and Spain were unanimously selected as the top-billed teams to win the gold medal. After the early departure of the Spaniards, eliminated in the group stage (a terrible disappointment for a squad who had won the 2011 European U-21 Championship and seemed destined to follow the successful path of the Spanish absolute team), the Brazilians looked more likely than ever to finally break their olympic curse and win the gold medal that had eluded them for decades… But once again it was not to be for the Seleção, as this time it was a surprising Mexican team who deprived them of the olympic glory. In general, the European teams were disappointing, with the unified GB team as the only representative to make it through the group stage, only to be eliminated by South Korea (surprising winners of the bronze medal) in the quarterfinals.

 

In the final, Brazil was a shadow of the attacking force that had scored 15 goals in the preliminary matches and displayed the defensive frailty that has long dogged them. El Tri got off to a dream start when, only 28 seconds into the game, Oribe Peralta scored the fastest goal in the history of olympic finals. Despite this early setback, Brazil continued playing with their usual dominant style, relying on their ball possession and superior skills to turn the tables. But the Canarinha was unusually sloppy in this game and found it hard to penetrate a fiercely committed Mexican backline. When, somewhat against the run of play, Peralta made it 2-0 for Mexico with fifteen minutes to go, Brazil was prey to anxiety. Although Mano Menezes’ team finally pulled one back In injury-time, it was already too late for Brazil, who extended their jinx in the Olympic Tournament just when everyone thought the five-time world champions were destined to end their agonizing wait for the gold (after two silver medals and two bronzes), two years ahead of their World Cup. For Mexico, it was the perfect end to a dreamy tournament in the best possible scenario, a fully packed Wembley.

 

FINAL STANDING

1.

Mexico

2.

Brazil

3.

South Korea

4.

Japan

5.

Great Britain

6.

Senegal

7.

Honduras

8.

Egypt

9.

Uruguay

10.

Belarus

11.

Morocco

12.

Gabon

13.

Switzerland

14.

Spain

15.

United Arab Emirates

16.

New Zealand

 

 

GAMES OF THE XXXI OLYMPIAD (RIO DE JANEIRO 2016)

 

Brazil, once more red-hot favorites to win the olympic gold in the football tournament, finally lived up to general expectations in Rio de Janeiro and completed the Canarinha’s title collection with the only trophy that had eluded them for decades. With five World Cups, eight Copa Americas, five Confederations Cups, and five Under-20 world titles, the olympic gold remained the one major title for which Brazil is eligible that had yet to win. For this reason, and also because the tournament was played on home soil (where the memory of the shameful 7-1 loss to Germany at the 2014 World Cup was still fresh), the Brazilian federation took this competition very seriously and presented a very talented selection of players, in which Neymar was the biggest star, forming a mouth-watering attacking trio with young Gabriel Jesus and Gabriel Barbosa. Although the Olympics are not on the FIFA international calendar and clubs were not required to release players for the tournament, Brazil was fortunate that FC Barcelona allowed Neymar to compete in Rio (unlike Argentine Paulo Dybala, who was prevented from doing so by Juventus).

 

The road to gold for Brazil started on the wrong foot though. Two goalless draws against South Africa and Iraq in the group stage created many doubts around the Seleção, although they finally found their scoring boots to thump Denmark 4-0 and top their group in style. In the final at Maracanã, Brazil faced a surprising German team, and the match was eventually decided on penalties. Neymar was especially motivated in the game and opened the scoring in the first half with a perfectly curled free kick. After hitting the woodwork three times, Germany levelled the score in the second half after Meyer completed a perfect attacking move. In extra-time, Brazil had a chance to win the match when substitute Felipe Anderson was put through with an inch-perfect pass by Neymar, but he was denied by a superb save from Horn. In the penalty shoot-out, Wéverton saved from Petersen and Neymar converted his spot kick to claim gold for Brazil.

 

One of the technical novelties introduced in Rio de Janeiro 2016 was the allowance of a fourth substitution during extra-time (which was never used though, as the only game featuring an extended period, the final between Brazil and Germany, had only two substitutes apiece).

 

FINAL STANDING

1.

Brazil

2.

Germany

3.

Nigeria

4.

Honduras

5.

South Korea

6.

Portugal

7.

Colombia

8.

Denmark

9.

Mexico

10.

Japan

11.

Argentina

12.

Iraq

13.

South Africa

14.

Algeria

15.

Sweden

16.

Fiji

 

 

 

 

 

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