Host City: London, Great Britain
Venue(s): White City Stadium, London
Date Started: October 19, 1908
Date Finished: October 24, 1908
Format: Single-elimination tournament.
Hungary and Bohemia were the only world class soccer nations who did not take part in the 1908 Games. Their late withdrawal reduced the number of competing teams to six and the Official Report gives the reason for their absence as "political troubles in the Balkans." This was a rather laconic way of describing the annexation of Bosnia and Herzegovina by Austria, an action which ultimately led to the outbreak of World War I six years later.
Unlike hockey, where the four countries comprising the United Kingdom entered separate teams, a single British team represented the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. However, only English players were considered for selection. The reason for this was that the Olympic competition was staged under the authority of FIFA (Fédération Internationale de Football Association) and Ireland, Scotland, and Wales had not become members of the international governing body. These three countries became FIFA members in 1910.
Surprisingly, France, who could hardly be rated as a leading soccer nation, entered two teams and Denmark, Holland and Sweden completed the entries. The early rounds produced some high scoring matches and with their 17-1 defeat of France "A", Denmark set an Olympic scoring record which has never beaten. The Danish centre-forward, Sofus Nielsen, also set an Olympic record by individually scoring 10 of the goals in Denmark's overwhelming victory.
Before a crowd of 8,000, Great Britain met Denmark in the final. In a classic match, Britain scored a goal in each half to give them a 2-0 victory but the Danes were highly praised for their skill and commitment. In a playoff match for third place Holland beat Sweden 2-0. Great Britain and Denmark maintained their pre-eminent position in world soccer and met again in the 1912 Olympic final when Britain were again the winners (4-2).
Six Danes and two Britons played in both the 1908 and 1912 finals and as the Danish players, Charles Buchwald and Oscar Nielsen, had also played in the 1906 final they became the only male players in history to take part in three Olympic soccer finals.