The Soviet Union sometimes lived on the edge at the 1988 Summer Games, but proved to be difficult to beat for their second Olympic football gold medal. The Soviets recorded a 5-0-1 mark ; the only blemish being a scoreless draw with hosts South Korea in the opening round. They beat Brazil, 2-1, in extra-time for the gold medal. Romario, who would go on to World Cup stardom at USA '94, and who was the tournament's top scorer (seven goals), lifted the Brazilians into a 1-0 advantage in the 29th minute, but Igor Dobrovolski equalized with a penalty kick in the 63rd. The score remained that way until extra-time, when substitute Yuri Savichev struck in the 103rd minute before 73,000 spectators in the Olympic Stadium.
The victory was impressive. Besides Romario, forward Bebeto and goalkeeper Claudio Taffarel would go on to play key roles for the Brazilians six years later.
The tournament was not without surprises. Zambia stunned Italy, 4-0, in the opening round with a hat-trick from Kalusha Bwalya (many players on this team died in a plane crash en route to a World Cup qualifying match in 1993).
Zambia lost to the Germans in the quarter-finals, 4-0, as striker Juergen Klinsmann, who would go on to play a vital role in the Germans' World Cup triumph two years later, registered a hat-trick. Italy went on to lose to West Germany in the bronze-medal match, 3-0, as Klinsmann, Gerhard Kleppinger and Christian Schreier got the goals.
In the semi-finals, the Germans could not get past Brazil, who prevailed 3-2 on penalty kicks, the score having been 1-1 after 120 minutes.
In the other match, the Soviets proved they were specialists in extra-time victories, surviving a wild, 3-2 affair with Italy that was tied 1-1 after 90 minutes. Arminas Narbekovas (92nd minute) and Alexi Mikhailchenko (106th) struck first for the winners before Andrea Carnevale, who later would be suspended from AS Roma for a year because of drug usage, scored with two minutes remaining in the extra period.
Attendance did not live up to the expectations generated by the previous two Olympic Football Tournaments as 729,000 spectators watched 32 contests, which still wound up as the most popular sport of the Summer Games.