Host City: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Venue(s): Arena Corinthians, SÃ£o Paulo; Arena da AmazÃ´nia, Manaus; Itaipava Arena Fonte Nova, Salvador; JoÃ£o Havelange Olympic Stadium, Engenho de Dentro, Rio de Janeiro; ManÃ© Garrincha National Stadium, BrasÃlia; MaracanÃ£ Stadium, MaracanÃ£, Rio de Janeiro; MineirÃ£o, Belo Horizonte
Date Started: August 4, 2016
Date Finished: August 20, 2016
Format: Round-robin pools advance teams to single-elimination tournament of eight teams.
Despite their wonderful record in the FIFA World Cup, with five wins, Brazil had surprisingly never won the Olympic title. Despite a decline in the national game in recent years, 2016 represented Brazilâs best chance of winning that elusive title, particularly with them having home advantage and the likes of world class players [Neymar] of Barcelona, Lazio midfielder [Felipe Anderson], Paris St Germain defender [Marquinhos] and the rising young stars of the Brazilian game, [Gabriel Barbosa] and [Gabriel Jesus] in their squad. The past three winners of the Olympic title had all been from the Americas (Argentina in 2004/ 2008 and Mexico in 2012) and that too was to give the Brazilians a slight edge, but there were a host of teams waiting to spoil their party.
Germany, who also have an impressive World Cup record without winning the Olympic title, were another of the fancied teams in Rio. They qualified after reaching the semi-final of the European Under-21 Championship and coach Horst Hrubesch kept faith in the youngsters that got them to Rio and his side included the Bender twins, [Lars] and [Sven], World Cup winner [Matthias Ginter] and Arsenalâs [Serge Gnabry]. Also heading the European challenge was Sweden, winners of their first UEFA Under-21 tournament in 2015. The team they beat on penalties in the final, Portugal, were riding on a wave of national pride their senior team brought to the country by winning the UEFA European Championship in 2016 â their first major international success. Jordan Larsson, the son of former Feyenoord, Celtic and Barcelona forward Henrik Larsson, was pulled out of the Swedish squad just two weeks before the start of the Olympics by the manager of his club side Helsingborgs, because he claimed the club had just one fit striker so they could not afford to let him go to Rio! The Helsingborgs manager wasâ¦ his father Henrik.
Colombia, with 2014 World Cup star [Teo Gutierrez], along with Argentina and the defending champions Mexico, who beat Brazil in the final at London 2012, were all considered to be in with a chance and one could never write off the likes of the 1996 champions Nigeria, who benefited from having Chelseaâs [John Obi Mikel] in their very young squad. At the start of the Games they had three 19-year-olds, two 18-year-olds and one 17-year old in their squad but, it must be remembered, the great PelÃ© made his World Cup dÃ©but at just 17! Argentina won the South American Under-20 tournament to qualify for Rio and their squad contained AtlÃ©tico Madrid's [Angel Correa] and [Giovanni Simeone], the tournament's top scorer with nine goals. He is the son of AtlÃ©tico Madrid manager and former Argentina international and Olympian [Diego Simeone].
The Nigerian squad nearly never made it to Rio. En route, they were stuck in Atlanta, USA, the day before the menâs competition started, with a problem over payment for a flight, and then they had to wait for a replacement plane because the original one was too small to take them down to Manaus for their opening game in the Amazon Rain Forest region. They arrived just hours before the scheduled kick-off. It didnât do [Oghenekaro Etebo] any harm as he scored four goals in a 5-4 win over Japan in the first Olympic menâs match to see nine goals scored in it since 1964, when the UAR beat South Korea 10-0. In another high-scoring opener [Seung-Woo Ryu] scored an hat-trick as South Korea beat Fiji 8-0 in the highest scoring menâs game since the Soviet Union beat Cuba by the same score in 1984.
Brazil were booed off the pitch after their opening match, which saw them held to a goalless draw by 10-man South Africa, and they were jeered by their own fans again in the second game against the dÃ©butant outsiders Iraq, as they were held to a goalless draw again. They were in danger of being eliminated and, with it, the chance of that elusive Olympic gold medal, but they eventually gave their fans something to cheer when they beat group leaders Denmark to set up a meeting with their fellow South Americans Colombia in the knockout stage.
In their second group game, [Erick GutiÃ©rrez] scored four second half goals for the defending champions Mexico, to turn around a 1-0 half-time deficit against Fiji. Sweden, one of the favourites finished bottom of their group but another of the European hopefuls, Portugal, qualified and set up an interesting last-eight clash with Germany. Like Brazil, Germany went into their final group game winless after two draws but that all changed when they beat Fiji 10-0, with [Nils Petersen] scoring five goals and [Max Meyer] bagging a hat-trick. It was the biggest win at the Olympics since that UAR win back in 1964.
At last Neymar got onto the score-sheet as Brazil beat Colombia in an ill-tempered match as they reached the semi-finals, and Germany, like Brazil, moved closer to their first Olympic title with a comfortable 5-0 win over Portugal in the quarters, with Serge Gnabry maintaining his record of scoring in every game. Nigeria reached their third semi-final in seven Olympics, and completing the last four line-up was Honduras, which assured them of their highest ever finish and the hope of their first ever Olympic medal in any sport.
Sadly for the Hondurans their first medal was not to be gold or silver, as there was no stopping the now rampant Brazilians, as Neymar opened the scoring after just 14 seconds of their semi-final encounter. It was the fastest ever Olympic goal, beating by six seconds the one scored by [Janine Beckie] of Canada in their opening Rio match against Australia two weeks earlier. Neymar scored again in the final minute as they ousted the plucky qualifiers 6-0. Having seen their women qualify for the final the day before, the German men beat Nigeria thanks to an early goal from [Lukas Klostermann] and an 89th minute a second goal from Nils Petersen as they became the first country to contest both menâs and womenâs finals at the same Olympics.
Nigeria won their first medal of the Games by beating Honduras 3-2 in the bronze medal match. At 3-0, thanks to goals from [Sadiq Umar] (2) and [Aminu Umar], it looked all over, but [Anthony Lozano] pulled one back for Honduras in the 71st minute and [Marcelo Pereira] headed home a second four minutes form time to make it a nervous final few minutes. The Africans held on, however, for that first medal in Rio and their third football one to go with the gold they won in 1996 and silver in 2008.
The final, played in front of 79,000 fanatical Brazilians in the MaracanÃ£, saw Brazil and Germany dish up a feast of non-stop football, which was a complete contrast to the last time these two teams met in a major competition, the semi-final of the 2014 FIFA World Cup, when Germany won 7-1. By the time Neymar opened the scoring for the hosts in the 27th minute it could well have been Germany who were in the lead as they had hit the woodwork several times. Far from feeling down at conceding, Germany kept coming at Brazil, but had to wait until the 59th minute before Max Meyer broke them down and equalised. It was the first goal Brazil had conceded in 509 minutes of football at these Games. Both sides continued to press for the winning goal in the remainder of the 90 minutes and the period of extra-time that followed but, despite some very tired legs towards the end, it remained 1-1 and it was down to penalties to decide the first menâs Olympic final to go to a shoot-out since Cameroon beat Spain in 2000.
Germany took the first spot-kick and like each of the first eight, was converted. Each side had one kick left before a possible sudden-death but Freiburg striker Nils Petersen saw his kick saved by [WÃ©verton]. It was now down to Neymar, the Brazil captain who, along with his team-mates, had been jeered and booed by the home fans after their first two lacklustre performances to become a national hero. That status was achieved by converting that final spot-kick as he gave Brazil their first ever Olympic football gold medal. Of course, Brazil wanted to win as many medals as they could on home soil, but the one medal they desperately wanted more than any other was the elusive football gold, and they got it.