Football seems to be a peripheral event for the Olympics. Due to the prevalence of men’s football as a major global sport with its own regional and global tournaments, there are conditions laid down about the constitution of the qualifying teams in the Olympic tournament; basically, it’s an under 23 tournament, with 3 over-age players per squad. Few of the major footballing powers seem to take the Olympic tournament very seriously, and for that reason it can throw up some surprises. On the other hand, the women’s tournament does seem to have more kudos as an Olympic event.
As far as Team GB (men) was concerned, there was endless bickering amongst the ‘home’ nations, England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, about whether they would support the Olympic tournament – since each country is represented individually by FIFA, there was concern amongst the Irish, Scottish and Welsh that their independence with FIFA would be threatened if they supported the concept of a GB team in the Olympics. Well, it wouldn’t be football if there wasn’t some fear of a conspiracy. As it happened, Team GB comprised of English and Welsh players only, managed by the charismatic and ever-smiling Stuart Pearce. The Welsh players chose not to sing the national anthem; the performance was mediocre, and in the end they got what they deserved. The GB women’s team seemed to fare a bit better – or at least didn’t attract the same level of bad press as the men.
The USA, the defending Olympic champions won the women’s tournament with a 2-1 victory over Japan in the final at Wembley. A clear handball by a USA defender in the penalty area was completely missed by the referee, an incident that might have changed the course of the game had it been seen. The game of the tournament was the semi-final between USA and Canada, won 4-3 by the USA with the winning goal coming in the last minute of extra time. Canada lead three times in the game and were it not for a controversial refereeing decision in normal time, which was very much in the USA’s favour, Canada would have probably progressed to the final.
The men’s tournament was won by Mexico, beating Brazil, the favourites, 2-1 in the final. With a colourful and raucous crowd of 87,00 in the stadium, Mexico scored within 30 secs and again after 85 mins to take a 2-0 lead. Brazil scored in added time, and almost immediately missed a great chance, which would have unjustifiably levelled the scores. So Brazil, one of the few countries who do take the Olympics seriously, still have to win an Olympic Gold Medal. They have silver and bronze from previous Olympics; could Rio 2016 be their chance for Gold?
Wembley hosted 9 matches
|Jul 29||Men Qual||Senegal 2 – 0 Uruguay||85,137|
|Jul 29||Men Qual||Great Britain 3 – 1 UAE||85,137|
|Jul 31||Women Qual||Great Britain 1 – 0 Brazil||70,584|
|Aug 1||Men Qual||Korea DPR 0 – 0 Gabon||76,927|
|Aug 4||Men QF||Mexico 4 – 2 Senegal||81,855|
|Aug 6||Women SF||France 1 – 2 Japan||61,482|
|Aug 7||Men SF||Mexico 3 – 1 Japan||82,000+|
|Aug 9||Women Final||USA 2 – 1 Japan||80,203|
|Aug 11||Men Final||Brazil 1 – 2 Mexico||86,162|
The football tournament, as a whole, attracted 2,186,930 spectators; Wembley accounted for 624,350, which amounts to over 28% of the total. Other games were played at the Millenium Stadium in Cardiff, Hampden Park in Glasgow, Old Trafford in Manchester, St James Park in Newcastle, and the City of Coventry Stadium in err….. Coventry.