Heroic hat-tricks and last-minute winners
Since football became an official Olympic sport in 1908, there have been many great Olympic football matches. FIFA Magazine looks back on some of the most memorable.
Spain - Poland 3-2 (1992)
Football lovers could not have asked for a more dramatic finish as Spain became the first host country to capture the gold since Belgium at the 1920 Olympics. Spain rallied from a 1-0 deficit in the second half to defeat Poland in Barcelona. The winner came when Francisco "Kiko" Narvaez scored 25 seconds into stoppage time, chipping a loose ball over goalkeeper Aleksander Klak in front of a spellbound crowd of 95,000 at the Nou Camp Stadium including King Juan Carlos, Queen Sofia and IOC president Juan Antonio Samaranch.
Wojciech Kowalczyk replied for Poland six seconds into first-half stoppage time. Ten minutes after King Juan Carlos had entered the stadium Spain equalized through Abelardo Fernandez?s header in the 65th minute. Kiko gave Spain a 2-1 lead in the 70th minute, but Poland drew level with a Ryszard Staniek goal six minutes later, setting up Kiko?s heroics.
Nigeria - Brazil 4-3 (1996)
FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter, who has attended every Olympics since 1972, said of Nigeria?s incredible comeback win: "It had everything that defines our sport: technique, tactics, passion and drama."
Nigeria produced the passion and drama, overcoming a 3-1 deficit with 13 minutes remaining to stun the gold medal favourites in the semi-final in Athens, Georgia. Victor Ikpeba cut the lead to one before Nwankwo Kanu equalized in the 90th minute and scored the Golden Goal on a 17-yard strike only four minutes later. Three days later, Nigeria pulled off another 11th-hour comeback with two late goals, turning a late 2-1 deficit into a 3-2 gold-medal triumph over Argentina. Substitute Emmanuel Amunike scored the game-winner with a minute to spare.
Soviet Union - Yugoslavia 5-5 (1952)
If not the greatest Olympic game of all time, it has to be the greatest comeback. Yugoslavia enjoyed a 5-1 advantage, including a pair of goals by Branko Zebec, at one juncture before the Soviets staged a rally from a 5-2 deficit with 14 minutes remaining. The Soviets tied it on a header by Vsevolod Bobrov, his third goal of the match, with a minute remaining. The Finnish crowd went crazy. Yugoslavia, however, won the replay 3-1 (and went on to capture the silver medal), as Rajko Mitic, Stjepan Bobek and Zlatko Cajkovski scored.
Soviet Union - Indonesia 0-0 (1956)
A funny thing happened to the Soviets on the way to their first football gold medal in Melbourne. They almost did not get there after coming up against a tough Indonesia side in the quarter-finals. The Indonesians unveiled an iron curtain of their own, keeping as many as ten players in the penalty area and a lone striker upfield. In the replay (penalty kicks were not used back then) the Soviets prevailed, 4-0, as Sergei Salnikov scored twice.
Zambia - Italy 4-0 (1988)
The Italians were surprised by the Africans in the first round as Kalusha Bwalya recorded a hat-trick, scoring in the 40th, 55th and 63rd minutes in South Korea. The Zambians met their match in the quarter-finals in West Germany, who registered a 4-0 win, Jürgen Klinsmann netting a hat-trick (the Germans defeated Italy for the bronze medal, 3-0).
Tragically, we will never know for sure how good this Zambian team could have been. Many players perished in a plane accident off the Gabon coast en route to a World Cup qualifying match in 1993.
East Germany - West Germany 3-2 (1972)
In the first international match between these two cold-war neighbours, the eastern side prevailed in this semi-final round-robin encounter, 3-2, in West Germany. East Germany went on to share the bronze medal with the Soviet Union; the West Germans got nothing. An interesting footnote: Two years later, East Germany edged West Germany, 1-0, in a first-round World Cup game. West Germany won the title while the East Germans were eliminated in the semi-final round-robin phase.