London Olympics 2012 Football (Soccer) Tournament

Men’s soccer has been played at nearly every summer Olympiad. It was not an official sport until the 1900 Summer Olympics in Paris because it didn’t reach worldwide popularity until then. Even after the establishment of the first World Cup, soccer remained on the Olympic program, but the gap in popularity between the two competitions continued to increase. The Olympic sport was demoted to a competition for amateur athletes in order to promote the World Cup. In the 1984 Los Angeles Games, the International Olympic Committee finally allowed professionals to play in the tournament. FIFA disagreed and didn’t want the Olympics to vie with the World Cup. Therefore, a compromise was made that permitted national teams from the CONCACAF, CAF, AFC, and OFC divisions the use of their best professional teams, while UEFA and CONMEBOL were only allowed to submit teams that did not participate in the World Cup. Post 1992, the male athletes had to be under 23 years old, and only 3 players exceeding that age would be allowed per team. This rule allowed every country to compete fairly in the Olympics. Soccer has also been played as a women’s competition sport since the 1996 Atlanta Games; there are no age restrictions, so countries are allowed to submit their full teams. Currently, Hungary and Great Britain hold the record for the most men’s titles (3 each), while the US holds the record for the most women’s titles (3).

Soccer at the 2012 Summer Olympics will be held from the 25th of July to the 11th of August. Six stadiums will host the matches in both the men’s and women’s tournament. In addition to London, the venues will represent other cities in Great Britain: Manchester, Cardiff, Newcastle, Glasgow, and Coventry. The final game in both competitions will be held in Wembley Stadium, located in London. The men’s tournament in the London Olympics features 16 national teams, while the women’s tournament features 12. For the majority of continental soccer confederations, a men’s U-23 tournament is played for qualifying in the Olympics. Some exceptions include CONMEBOL and UEFA; qualified teams are picked from the finalists of the South American Youth Championship and the top three teams in the UEFA U-21 Tournament respectively. In the women’s tournament, teams are chosen from the top teams in the previous year’s Women’s World Cup.

On April 24th, a draw was held, allocating each team to a group in the men’s and women’s tournament. Here is the list of teams participating and the groups they were sorted into.

Men’s Tournament:

  • Group A-Great Britain, Senegal, United Arab Emirates, and Uruguay
  • Group B-Mexico, South Korea, Gabon, and Switzerland
  • Group C-Brazil, Egypt, Belarus, and New Zealand
  • Group D-Spain, Japan, Honduras, and Morocco

Women’s Tournament:

  • Group E-Great Britain, New Zealand, Cameroon, and Brazil
  • Group F-Japan, Canada, Sweden, and South Africa
  • Group G-US, France, Columbia, and North Korea

The women’s quarterfinals were held today, narrowing the 8 teams surviving the group stage down to just 4. The semifinals will take place on August 6th, where France will take on Japan at 17:00 London time and Canada will play the US at 19:45. The men’s quarterfinals have yet to come tomorrow, where 8 teams (Japan, Egypt, Mexico, Senegal, Brazil, Honduras, Great Britain, and Korea) will compete in a chance to advance to the semis. After winning the U-21 UEFA Championship, it was a shock that Spain didn’t even advance to the quarterfinals. They played their group games without a single goal and only one tie, giving them a disappointing fourth place finish in Group D.