Host City: Melbourne, Australia
Venue(s): Melbourne Cricket Ground, Melbourne, Victoria; Olympic Park Stadium, Melbourne, Victoria
Date Started: November 23, 1956
Date Finished: December 8, 1956
Format: Single-elimination tournament.
For the first time in history, a qualifying campaign was organized to bring down the number of competing teams to 16. Eventually five (Hungary, Egypt, Vietnam, China and Turkey) of the qualified teams withdrew, leaving only eleven teams to play in Melbourne. The original draw had a first round of eight matches, but only three of those took place - Soviet Union vs. Germany, Great Britain vs. Thailand, and Australia vs. Japan. The scheduled first round match of Yugoslavia vs. United States was moved into the second round, or quarter-finals. The other first round matches scheduled were as follows: Bulgaria vs. Egypt, Hungary vs. India, Indonesia vs. Vietnam, and China vs. Turkey. With China and Turkey not competing, that match was voided, while Bulgaria, India, and Indonesia were advanced into the quarter-final round.
Of the competing teams, the Soviet Union was heavily favoured to take the gold. They lived up to those expectations, although they did not play as well as expected, and needed a fair amount of luck. A combined German team narrowly lost 1-2 to the Soviets, who then progressed to a goalless draw against unheralded Indonesia. The Asians were dismissed 4-0 in the replay, and Bulgaria was their next opponent. After a goal-less 90 minutes, Bulgaria took the lead in extra time. The Bulgarians leaned back to finish the match easily, but the Soviets had a terrific comeback and decided the match in their favour with minutes to spare.
The Soviet's opponent in final was Yugoslavia, which had lost the deciding match at the 1948 and 1952 Olympics. They had beaten surprise semi-finalist India, whose players were unaccustomed to wearing boots during the game. Yugoslavia once more had to settle for silver in Melbourne. They were unlucky not to get a penalty kick early in the game and a seemingly legal goal was cancelled for offside. The Soviet team's star was their keeper, Lev Yashin. He is generally considered to be the best ever goalkeeper, and led the Soviets to the inaugural European title in 1960. He played his entire career for [Dynamo Moskva], winning five domestic championships.