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| Event type

Football, Men

Date7 – 23 August 2008
StatusOlympic
LocationBeijing Guojia Tiyuchang, Beijing Aolinpike Gongyuan, Beijing / Qinghuangdao Shi Ao Ti Zhongxin Tiyuchang, Qinhuangdao / Shanghai Tiyuchang, Shanghai / Shenyang Aolinpike Tiyu Zhongxin Tiyuchang, Shenyang / Tianjin Aolinpike Zhongxin Tiyuchang, Tianjin / Gongren Tiyuchang, Beijing
Participants274 from 16 countries
FormatRound-robin pools advance teams to single-elimination tournament of eight teams.

As in previous Olympics the men’s competition was organized for “U23” players, footballers at most 23 years old, but three older players were allowed on each team. Prior to the Olympics, major discussion ensued when several European clubs would not release their players to compete in the Olympics. After a short summer holiday because of the European Championships, several teams had to compete in the preliminary rounds of the Champions League or UEFA Cup, and required their players to be present. The clubs argued the Olympic tournament was not on the official international calendar, and thus they were not required to release their players, as is common for international tournaments. The International Football Federation (FIFA) meanwhile announced that the tournament had been “informally” on the calendar for years, and clubs would have to oblige. Eventually, the case was taken to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), which decided in favour of the clubs. Eventually, most players did play in Beijing, although a few were forced to fly back to Europe before completion of the competition.

Two of the affected footballers were the star players of the South American favourites, Lionel Messi (Argentina) and Ronaldinho (Brazil). Both played for Spanish side FC Barcelona, which wanted the players to withdraw. However, Messi was eventually allowed to compete, while Ronaldinho completed a transfer to Italy just before the Olympics. Ronaldinho’s Brazil was looking to finally win the Olympic gold medal that had eluded Brazil for decades, while Argentina was defending its 2004 title, and had won the 2005 and 2007 editions of the U20 World Cup. Other contenders were assumed to be the African sides of Cameroon (the 2000 Champions), Nigeria (gold in 1996) and Italy and the Netherlands from Europe.

Brazil and Argentina were the only teams to qualify for the quarter-finals undefeated. Both needed extra time to win their matches against Cameroon and the Netherlands, respectively, before clashing in the semi-finals. The match was highly anticipated, but turned out to be a fairly one-sided affair, with Argentina beating their neighbours 3-0. Two goals were scored by Sergio Agüero, with his father-in-law (former star player Maradona) watching from the stands. In the other semi-final, Nigeria had little trouble with Belgium, the tournament’s biggest surprise.

In the final, a replay of the 1996 Olympic final in Atlanta, Nigeria and Argentina were evenly matched in the first 45 minutes. In the 58th minute, a quick break from Argentina resulted in the match’s only goal, as Ángel di Maria chipped the ball over the goalkeeper. Nigeria pressed hard in the final half hour, but were unable to pull of the same stunt as in 1996. Argentina thus became the first repeat winners of the Olympic title in 40 years, after Hungary won the title in 1964 and 1968.

PosNrTeamNOCWTLPts
1ArgentinaARG6001811–2Gold
2NigeriaNGR4111310–4Silver
3BrazilBRA5011514–3Bronze
4BelgiumBEL30397–10
5ItalyITA21178–3
6Côte d'IvoireCIV20266–6
7NetherlandsNED12154–4
8CameroonCMR12152–3
9United StatesUSA11144–4
10Republic of KoreaKOR11142–4
11AustraliaAUS01211–3
12SerbiaSRB01213–7
13People's Republic of ChinaCHN01211–6
14New ZealandNZL01211–7
15JapanJPN00301–4
16HondurasHON00300–5

Preliminary Round (7 – 13 August 2008)

Group A (7 – 13 August 2008)

Round-robin pool.

PosNOCWTLPtsGoals
1ARG30095–1Q
2CIV20166–4Q
3AUS01211–3
4SRB01213–7

Match #1 07 Aug 17:00AUS 1 – 1SRB
Match #2 07 Aug 19:45ARG 2 – 1CIV
Match #3 10 Aug 17:00ARG 1 – 0AUS
Match #4 10 Aug 19:45CIV 4 – 2SRB
Match #5 13 Aug 19:45CIV 1 – 0AUS
Match #6 1 13 Aug 19:45ARG 2 – 0SRB 2

Group B (7 – 13 August 2008)

Round-robin pool.

PosNOCWTLPtsGoals
1NGR21074–2Q
2NED12053–2Q
3USA11144–4
4JPN00301–4

Match #1 07 Aug 17:00USA 1 – 0JPN
Match #2 07 Aug 19:45NED 0 – 0NGR
Match #3 10 Aug 17:00NGR 2 – 1JPN
Match #4 10 Aug 19:45NED 2 – 2USA
Match #5 3 13 Aug 17:00NED 1 – 0JPN 4
Match #6 5 13 Aug 17:00NGR 62 – 1USA

Group C (7 – 13 August 2008)

Round-robin pool.

PosNOCWTLPtsGoals
1BRA30099–0Q
2BEL20163–1Q
3CHN01211–6
4NZL01211–7

Match #1 7 07 Aug 17:00BRA 1 – 0BEL 8
Match #2 07 Aug 19:45CHN 1 – 1NZL
Match #3 10 Aug 17:00BRA 5 – 0NZL
Match #4 9 10 Aug 19:45BEL 2 – 0CHN 10
Match #5 13 Aug 19:45BRA 3 – 0CHN
Match #6 13 Aug 19:45BEL 1 – 0NZL

Group D (7 – 13 August 2008)

Round-robin pool.

PosNOCWTLPtsGoals
1ITA21076–0Q
2CMR12052–1Q
3KOR11142–4
4HON00300–5

Match #1 07 Aug 17:00ITA 3 – 0HON
Match #2 07 Aug 19:45CMR 1 – 1KOR
Match #3 10 Aug 17:00CMR 1 – 0HON
Match #4 10 Aug 19:45ITA 3 – 0KOR
Match #5 13 Aug 17:00KOR 1 – 0HON
Match #6 13 Aug 17:00CMR 0 – 0ITA

Quarter-Finals (16 August 2008)

Winners of each match advanced to semi-finals.

Match #1 16 Aug 18:00BRA 2 – 0
AET
CMR
Match #2 11 16 Aug 18:00BEL 3 – 2ITA 12
Match #3 16 Aug 21:00ARG 2 – 1
AET
NED
Match #4 16 Aug 21:00NGR 2 – 0CIV

Semi-Finals (19 August 2008)

Winners of each match advanced to final round.

Match #1 19 Aug 18:00NGR 4 – 1BEL
Match #2 13 19 Aug 21:00ARG 3 – 0BRA 14

Final Round (22 – 23 August 2008)

Medal round.

Match 1/2 23 Aug 12:00ARG 1 – 0NGR
Match 3/4 22 Aug 19:00BRA 3 – 0BEL

Rankings

Goals
Shots
Shots on Goal
Fouls Committed
Yellow Cards
Red Cards