Despite the fears of an 11th-hour cancellation of the Olympics Games in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak, the participants across the globe are determined to make their nations proud in the world’s greatest sporting event. If the recent Euro 2020 and Copa America 2021 were not enough for you, the Olympics Football is set to entertain the fanatics once more with its unique charm and charisma over the next couple of weeks.
The game has already begun though with the teams fighting for a place in the knockouts. Brazil, the reigning men’s champions, are off to a winning start with a thumping 4-2 victory over Germany. The Selecao have the most number of Olympic medals in football (six), however, they had to wait until 2015 to win their first-ever Gold.
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Speaking of Golds, Hungary and Great Britain are leading the tally as they won it thrice each in the men’s competition. The Britishers conquered it in 1900, 1908 and 1912 during football’s inception, but the heights attained by Hungary deserve accolades as it was more structured and competitive post-1950s. The era of Ferenc Puskás and Sándor Kocsis laid the foundation in 1956 and the likes of Ferenc Bene and Antal Dunai carried the baton in 1964 and 1968 respectively.
1996 summer Olympics, held in the United States, is significant for the introduction of women’s football event. The host nation conquered the coveted crown defeating China in an engaging final and the USWNT maintained their sheer supremacy by winning three more Golds in 2004, 2008 and 2012. 2016 was a disappointment as they got knocked out by Sweden (in tie-breaker) from the quarterfinals and the latter eventually progressed through to the final only to be humbled by Germany at the famous Maracana stadium.
Although the Germans are only next to the Stars and Stripes in terms of Olympic success (1 Gold and 3 Bronzes), their failure to qualify for the Tokyo game marks the United States frontrunners to reclaim the lost throne. But the Sweden hoodoo has struck them once again as they endured a 3-0 humiliation in the opening game week of this term’s contest. It’s their first defeat in two years and an immediate turnaround must be scripted to avoid further upset going forward.
The women have no age limit, but the men’s competition is restricted to the U23s with 3 overage players. A change of rule has been applied this year as the players born on or after 1st January 1997 (i.e. U24s) are allowed to take part due to the postponement. It would take decades to emulate the United States’ success, however, the Copa winners Argentina might join Hungary and Great Britain at the pinnacle of men’s football having clinched the Gold twice already in 2004 and 2008.