Argentina arrived in Greece billed as hot favourites - a
mantle that had weighed heavily upon them at the 2002 FIFA World
Cup Japan/Korea TM and the recent Copa America, where they were
beaten in the final by Brazil. This time, however, the Albicelestes
stood firm to win their first-ever Olympic Football Tournament gold
medal, having twice fallen at the final hurdle, in 1928 and 1996.
Nigeria made Olympic football history by becoming the first
African and non-European and South American team to win the gold
medal. While the football tournament remained primarily an Under-23
competition, each of the 16 competing countries were allowed to use
as many as three overage players in a compromise between FIFA and
the International Olympic Committee.
Four years after the boycott over Afghanistan, the Eastern
European countries returned the favour with yet another boycott,
citing possible security problems. So, only weeks before the start
of the Summer Games, favourite teams East Germany, Czechoslovakia
and the Soviet Union were out, and West Germany, Italy and Norway
The Communist countries held their own private Eastern bloc
party in 1980 because a number of nations boycotted the Olympics.
U.S. President Jimmy Carter refused to send American teams to
Moscow after the Soviets' Afghanistan invasion. Six other
countries that had qualified for the football tournament followed
suit -- Argentina, Egypt, Ghana, Iran, Malaysia and Norway.
Hungary tried to make it three straight in West Germany, but
fell to midfielder Kazimierz Deyna and Poland in the final, 2-1.
Trailing 1-0 at halftime, Poland took advantage of near gale-force
winds at their backs to pull out the win before 80,000 spectators
in the Olympic Stadium.
The 1968 Summer Games might have been the most tumultuous of
all Olympics, and that confusion and problems touched the football
tournament as well. In the end, Hungary, who captured their third
gold medal, joined Great Britain (1908 and 1912) and Uruguay (1924
and 1928) as the only back-to-back Olympic champions.
The football tournament added another tier as the
second-place team in each of the four groups also qualified for the
quarter-finals. Even before the opening kick-off, the 1964 event
was marred because 328 people were killed during rioting at a
qualifying match between Peru and Argentina in Lima.
Because of the Hungarian Revolution and the Soviet
Union's reaction to it, only 11 countries participated in this
tournament, making it the smallest football competition since the
1908 & 1912 Summer Games.
This tournament saw the birth of one of the greatest football
teams: Hungary, who were soon to become known as the Magic Magyars,
led by the fabulous Galloping Major, Ferenc Puskas. And magic did
the Hungarians perform, rolling to five consecutive wins, scoring
20 goals and allowing just two.
Because of the growing professional influence and of the
presence of a World Cup, there were difficulties defining what an
amateur was. With no solution at the time, the International
Olympic Committee decided not to include football at the 1932
Summer Games in Los Angeles.
If there was any doubt about Uruguay's prowess at the
1924 Summer Games, it was all but dispelled four years later, as
the South Americans captured their second successive crown. The
Uruguayans were led by eight returnees from the 1924 squad,
including Andrade, Jose Nasazzi, and Hector Scarone.
After an eight-year hiatus due to World War I, football
returned to the global arena in Belgium as the Olympic flag and its
famous five rings was hoisted for the first time. Slowly but surely
the football tournament was expanding as 14 countries participated,
including a non-European nation for the first time -- Egypt.
In an Olympic first and rarity, the 1-2-3 finish of the 1908
Games was duplicated four years later. The tournament, which grew
to 11 teams, started the practice of playing the games in venues
outside the main Olympic city. Matches were also hosted in Rasunda
After tries in Athens (1896), Paris (1900) and St. Louis
(1904), the first official Olympic Football Tournament was held in
London as host Great Britain won the first of two consecutive gold
medals. Eight teams entered the competition -- two from France and
one each from Sweden, the Netherlands, Denmark, Great Britain,
Hungary and Bohemia, although the latter two later withdrew.