Host City: Athina, Greece
Venue(s): Georgios Karaiskakis Stadium, Athina; Kaftanzoglou National Stadium of Thessaloniki, Thessaloniki; Olympic Stadium, Athens Olympic Sports Complex Spiros Loues, Maroussi; Pan-Cretan Stadium, Iraklion; Pan-Pelopennese Stadium, Patras; Pan-Thessaliko Stadium, Volos
Date Started: August 11, 2004
Date Finished: August 28, 2004
Format: Round-robin pools advance teams to single-elimination tournament of eight teams.
The sensation of the 2004 Olympic football tournament was the team from Iraq. Their NOC's suspension was only lifted in early 2004, but the war-ravaged country managed to qualify for Athens. In the group stage, it upset Cristiano Ronaldo's Portugal and Costa Rica for a quarter-final spot. Their dream continued with a 1-0 victory over Australia. Another surprise was Paraguay, which had never won an Olympic medal prior to 2004. In the semi-final, they played Iraq (which had only won a single Olympic medal in 1960), winning 3-1. Iraq then failed to end the tournament on a high, losing against Italy's more experienced players for the bronze. The final saw two South American teams pitted against each other for the first time since 1928. Argentina then played Uruguay, but lost the final, as it did in 1996. In fact, Argentina had not won an Olympic title since 1952, but 28 August 2004 proved a good them for them. First the football team broke the 52-year dry spell, followed by their basketball squad later in the day. The title earned several young Argentine players transfers to major European teams. The tournament's top scorer, Carlos Tévez, remained in Argentina though. Overall though, the 2004 Olympic football tournament was not a great success. Most of the matches were very poorly attended, and the quality level of the tournament was low. As had been the case since at least the 1960s, many observers called for the sport to be excluded from the Olympics.
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