Football was introduced as a medal sport at the Paris 1900 Olympic Games. Great Britain won the men’s gold medal, then successfully defended their title four years later in Stockholm. The sport has featured at every Olympic Games since, except for Los Angeles 1932. The first women’s competition was at Atlanta 1996.
The Olympic games is the oldest and most traditional international tournament in world football. The football tournament of the Olympic Games reached its peak in the 1920s when the tournament must be regarded as the world championship of that time with Uruguay the most dominant force in the early years.
However, with the introduction of the World Cup in 1930, the status of the tournament diminished.
The Olympic Games was turned into an under-23 competition in time for Barcelona in 1992 as part of a deal which included the option of three over-age players and the creation of a women’s tournament. The bonus was African success for Nigeria in 1996 and Cameroon in 2000.
Argentina, winners in 2004 and 2008, wanted to go for a first-ever hat-trick in London but they did not qualify for tis year's Olympics.
Uruguay qualified at the expense of Argentina, the first time they've qualified since since they last won gold in 1928.
Brazil will be seeking a first-ever gold medal in London.
In 1924 the Uruguay team traveled to Paris to become the first South American team to compete in the Olympic Games.
The marvellously talented and skilful Uruguay played a style based around short passes and won every game, defeating Switzerland 3–0 in the final.
In the 1928 Summer Olympics Uruguay went to Amsterdam to defend their title, again winning the gold medal after defeating Argentina 2–1 in the final.
Following the double Olympic triumph, Uruguay was chosen as the host nation for the first World Cup, held in 1930, the centenary of Uruguay's first constitution. At the World Cup, Uruguay won all its matches, and converted a 1–2 half-time deficit to a 4–2 victory against Argentina at the Estadio Centenario.
Hungary 1952 Helsinki, 1964 Tokyo, 1968 Mexico City
Hungary has won three football Olympic gold medals, more than any other country.
The 1952 helsinki Games saw the birth of one of the greatest football teams: Hungary, who were soon to become known as the Magic Magyars, led by the fabulous Galloping Major, Ferenc Puskas.
And magic did the Hungarians perform, rolling to five consecutive wins, scoring 20 goals and allowing just two.
Hungary, rampant in the earlier rounds, won its second gold medal, edging Czechoslovakia, 2-1, on defender Vladimir Weiss's own goal and Ferenc Bene's score in front of 65 610 in the National Stadium. Bene finished the tournament as the to scorer with 12 goals
The 1968 Summer Games might have been the most tumultuous of all Olympics, and that confusion and problems touched the football tournament as well.
In the end, Hungary, who captured their third gold medal, joined Great Britain (1908 and 1912) and Uruguay (1924 and 1928) as the only back-to-back Olympic champions.
Argentina 2004 Athens, 2008 Beijing
Argentina arrived in Greece billed as hot favourites, a mantle that had weighed heavily upon them at the 2002 FIFA World Cup Japan/Korea TM and the recent Copa America, where they were beaten in the final by Brazil.
This time, however, the Albicelestes stood firm to win their first-ever Olympic Football Tournament gold medal, having twice fallen at the final hurdle, in 1928 and 1996.
Argentina, led by their dynamic playmaker Lionel Messi, was perfect in Group A, squeaked by the Netherlands in the quarterfinals 2-1 on the strength of an Angel Di Maria extra time goal, routed rival Brazil 3-0 in the semifinals, then captured a second straight gold medal with a 1-0 win in the final against Nigeria.
A goal by Di Maria, this time in the 58th minute, again the difference between the teams.
Nigeria 1996 Atlanta
Nigeria made Olympic football history by becoming the first African and non-European and South American team to win the gold medal.
While the football tournament remained primarily an Under-23 competition, each of the 16 competing countries were allowed to use as many as three overage players in a compromise between FIFA and the International Olympic Committee.
In a stirring semifinal against Brazil, Nigeria scored twice in the final 13 minutes to force overtime, and then won, 4-3, on a goal from Nwankwo Kanu.
Nigeria repeated its late-game magic in the final against Argentina, scoring in the final minute of regulation to win, 3-2. Brazil -- whose roster included Ronaldo, Roberto Carlos, and Bebeto -- routed Portugal, 5-0, for the bronze medal.
Cameroon 2000 Sydney
Cameroon capped off one of the finest Olympic tournaments with a thrilling shoot-out victory over Spain to become the second consecutive African nation to win gold in men's soccer.
American women's team 1996 Atlanta, 2004 Athens, 2008 Beijing
The United States and Norway had met in the 1991 and 1995 Women's World Cup finals, with each team winning once. In the Olympic debut of women's soccer, the two rivals clashed in the semifinals, where the Americans won, 2-1, on a golden goal in extra time.
In another thrilling semifinal, China got two goals from Wei Huiying in the last eight minutes to beat Brazil, 3-2. America defeated China, 2-1 in the final in front of 76 489 fans at the University of Georgia.
Norway beat the Americans in overtime to claim gold in Sydney in 2000.
The 2004 Athens Olympics were a fitting end for a number of American women's veterans, including Mia Hamm, Julie Foudy and Joy Fawcett, who went out of the sport as they came into it: as champions.
The American team won both of its semifinal and final matches in overtime to reclaim the gold it lost in Sydney. The beat germany in the semi-finals and Brazil in the gold-medal match.