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 were in.
Despite the 11th-hour call, Italy did quite well, losing to Yugoslavia, a communist country that decided to show up after all, in the bronze-medal match, 2-1. The Italians had a number of players on the brink of stardom -- Franco Baresi, Daniele Massaro, Aldo Serena and Pietro Vierchowod. Likewise for Cameroon's Roger Milla, who would later go on to World Cup glory in 1990, but not before scoring a goal in this competition.
For the first time, professionals were allowed to play in the Olympic Football Tournament. Players from Europe and South America who had performed in the World Cup could not partake in the tournament, which helped teams such as Canada and Egypt, who reached the quarter-finals.
The French, whose "A" team had captured the European Championship only weeks earlier, got off to a sluggish start in the first round, playing Qatar to a 2-2 draw and Chile to a 1-1 tie and edging Norway, 2-1. They picked up steam in the knockout rounds, downing Egypt, 2-0, in the quarter-finals on two goals by Daniel Xuereb, and prevailing over Yugoslavia in extra-time in the semi-finals, 4-2, as Guy Lacombe and Xuereb provided the late scoring heroics. Brazil, with players mostly from a club team, Internacional of Porto Alegre, reached the final by surviving a penalty kick shoot-out with Canada, 4-2, after playing to a 1-1 draw.
The French capped a memorable summer in the final, beating Brazil, 2-0. François Brisson and Xuereb scored seven minutes apart in the 55th and 62nd minutes respectively. Xuereb tied Borivoje Cvetkovic and Stjepan Deveric of Yugoslavia, with five goals each.
As big a story was the overflow crowds at the four sites -- Palo Alto, Calif., Annapolis, Md., Cambridge, Mass. and particularly Pasadena, Calif., where a U.S.-record crowd of 101,799 witnessed the final at the Rose Bowl. In fact, 1,421,627 spectators watched football over 32 matches, the most attended Olympic sport. This success helped the US to persuade FIFA in 1988 to award the 1994 World Cup to the United States.