The Olympic Odyssey so far... (Part 1: 1908 - 1964)
There have been twenty Olympic Football tournaments in the last 96 years, and each one has produced passion, thrilling feats and glorious tales to tell. Join FIFA.com for a look back at the highlights of the previous tournaments, including the goal deluge of 1908, the devastating performances of marksmen from Denmark and Hungary, and the huge attendances of Sydney 2000.
1908: Goals, goals, goals
London 1908 was the first Olympic football tournament of the modern era and with football still in its teething stages, the competition had a somewhat fanciful feel to it as many of the participating teams were countries in name alone. France showed its enthusiasm for the event by sending two teams, though the B team probably wished they had stayed at home as they were walloped 9-0 by eventual finalists Denmark in the first round. If the French A team thought they could avenge their countrymen when they met the Danes in the semi-final, they were sorely mistaken as they were spanked 17-1 in what remains the biggest scoreline in Olympic history. Striker Sophus Nielsen made sure his name went down in history by bagging 10 goals in the game after which Les Bleus truly had the blues.
1912: Groundhog Day in Stockholm
The Stockholm Games witnessed a clear case of déjà vu when the football tournament produced, for the first and only time, exactly the same medallists as it had four years earlier and in exactly the same order: the Gold went to Great Britain, the Silver to Denmark, and the Netherlands clinched the Bronze. In addition to the British, only three other countries have claimed Gold more than once: Uruguay triumphed in 1924 and 1928, the USSR won in 1956 and 1988, and Hungary have been victorious three times, in 1952, 1964 and 1968. Incredibly, 1912 also saw a striker repeat Nielsen's 1908 feat, as the Germany's Gottfried Fuchs hit ten against Russia in a 16-0 win. Legend has it that the Tsar Nicolas II was so enraged by that humiliation that he refused to pay for the Russian players' trip home.
1920: Thrills and tantrums
World War I put paid to the 1916 Tournament, which was due to be hosted by Berlin, so the next edition was in 1920 in Antwerp, Belgium. Egypt became the first non-European team to take part and they proved worthy participants as they gave Italy a tough game before going down 2-1. It was not all fun and games though, as the tournament also had its share of controversy. In the Final, Czechoslovakia, who were competing in an international competition for the first time, stormed off the pitch after just half an hour in protest against a decision not to disallow a Belgian goal. The Belgians, who were 2-0 up at the time, were declared the winners. The other big controversy surrounded the third-place play-off match that was supposed to see France battle it out for Bronze with the Netherlands. The match, however, never took place as most of the French players simply went home instead, leaving the Dutch to pick up their third consecutive Bronze medal uncontested.
1924: Uruguay enters the fray
The South Americans announced their arrival onto the Olympic scene in style. With an extraordinarily gifted generation of players led by the "Black Pearl", Jose Leandro Andrade, the Uruguayans claimed Gold in both 1924 and 1928 before going on to lift the inaugural FIFA World Cup™ in 1930. In Paris in 1924, they came up against Switzerland who very nearly missed the match. At the start of the tournament they had bought 10-day train tickets that expired before the Final - and they could not afford to buy new ones. It looked like they would have to head home before the big match; fortunately, the Sport newspaper came to the rescue by organising a collection for the team who, as a result, were able to stay on. They put up a brave fight in the Final, but could not stop the superb Uruguayans from running out 3-0 winners and becoming the first, and still the only South American team to win the Olympic title.
1928: South Americans on top of the world
Glory was to again be Uruguay's in Amsterdam, but only after a mighty struggle with Argentina, who they would also meet in the Final of the first ever FIFA World Cup™ two years later. The two teams could not be separated after the first Final (1-1) in the Netherlands so the match went to a replay, and this time the Celeste came out on top 3-1. Italy took the Bronze after demolishing Egypt 11-3 and also had the satisfaction of setting two new records: Adolfo Baloncieri became the first player to score in five consecutive matches (only three others have done it since); and even more remarkably, in the play-off against Egypt, three Italians - Angelo Schiavio, Elvio Banchero and Mario Magnozzi - hit hat-tricks.
1936: Troubled times, troubled tournament
These Games were held in highly unusual circumstances. Football had not featured in the 1932 Olympics in Los Angeles due to disputes over amateur status, but the IOC brought it back in time for Berlin. The tension caused by the political situation surrounding the event meant that tempers also became frayed on the pitch. Strange incidents included Italy's Achille Piccini refusing to go off after getting his marching orders against the United States, instead playing for the full 90 minutes. The quarter-final between Peru and Austria was an even more stormy affair, with Peruvian fans invading the pitch and causing the game to end prematurely with their team in the lead. The tournament organisers ordered the match to be replayed, but Peru refused and packed their backs instead. The tournament was eventually won by Italy, who had lifted the FIFA World Cup in 1934 and would win it again in 1938 - 10 Azzuri, including the legendary Vittorio Pozzo, played in all three competitions. Italy remains the country that has played in the most Olympic Football Tournaments (13) and the most Olympic matches (51).
1948: Goal-happy Swedes romp to Gold
World War II meant there were no Olympic Games for 12 years. London hosted the first post-War tournament, which Sweden illuminated with the skilful attacking play that would also see them reach the Final of the 1958 FIFA World Cup Sweden™. The Scandinavians struck 22 goals in just four matches, making for an amazing average of 5.5 goals per game. Their biggest win came against Korea, who they crushed 12-0, with forward Gunnar Nordahl finding the net four times. The Swedes were not the only high scorers though, as the 1948 event saw more goals than any other before or since. 1948 also saw Yugoslavia reach the quarter-finals for the first of a record four times.
1952: The dawn of Hungarian domination
The legend of the "Magical Magyars" was born in Helsinki, where Ferenc Puskas, Sandor Kocsis and Nandor Hidegkuti lifted football to another level. The Hungarians swept all before them, hitting 20 goals in five matches and conceding just two. Yugoslavia were an excellent side and were playing in their second successive Final, but they could do nothing to stop the awesome Hungarians. Though they missed out on the Gold, the Yugoslavs could still reflect on the tournament with pride, particularly on their match against the USSR, when they resisted an incredible fight-back by the Soviets who equalised in the last-minute after trailing 5-1. Hungary, meanwhile, would go on to set the longest unbeaten run in the history of football, which only came to an end in the Final of the 1954 FIFA World Cup Switzerland™.
1956: Soviets taste success for the first time
Only 11 teams took part this time round, the fewest since 1908, and none could keep the Soviet Union from picking up their first ever Gold medal. Yugoslavia came close but felt the agony of losing in the Final for the third time in a row. Goalkeeper Lev Yashin, nicknamed the "Black Spider", was the star of the Soviet show. No country outside of Eastern Europe was to win the Olympic Football Tournament again until 1984, and the Soviets would reclaim Gold in 1988. The USSR were also to reap a handsome bounty of Bronzes (1972, 1976 and 1980), matched only by the Netherlands (1908, 1912 and 1920).
1960: Fourth time lucky for Yugoslavia
If at first you don't succeed, try, try, try and try again - that seems to be the moral of Yugoslavia's Olympic story! Appearing in their fourth successive Final, the Yugoslavs finally managed to get their hands on the Gold, thanks to a long overdue slice of luck. They finished the first round level on points with Bulgaria, but progressed after lots were drawn in their favour. Fortune smiled on them again in the semi-final against an Italian side featuring current Italy boss Giovanni Trapattoni - after the match ended 1-1, lots were again drawn and again Yugoslavia went through. There was nothing fortuitous about their win in the Final though, as goals from Milan Galic and Borivoje Kostic, who both finished the tournament as top scorers (7 goals each) helped them to a 3-1 victory over Denmark. Ironically, that result meant that the Danes equalled Yugoslavia's record for most Silver medals won (Denmark also having finished second in 1908 and 1912), though they have yet to have the pleasure of claiming the Gold.
1964: Tokyo under the spell of the Magyars
Hungary regaled Tokyo and won the tournament for the second time thanks to a spectacular offensive style of play. Ferenc Bene grabbed all six goals of their 6-0 win over Morocco in the first round and plundered an astonishing 12 throughout the Tournament, a record that, likes Just Fontaine's haul of 13 in the 1958 FIFA World Cup Sweden, is not likely to be broken any time soon. Bene does not, however, hold the record for the most Olympic goals on aggregate, since that is shared by Denmark's Sophus Nielsen and another Hungarian, Antal Dunai, who both have a total of 13 Olympic goals to the names. Hungary, who went on to retain their Gold medal in 1968, are the most highly decorated team in the history of the Olympic Football Tournament (3 Golds, 1 Silver, and 1 Bronze).