When people think of soccer and the sport that is played all over the world, many will picture the club soccer that has become the most popular sport in the world.
The Premier League, La Liga, Bundesliga, Serie A, and MLS – all have a wide fan base and will provide entertainment to millions of people around the world.
However, there are also international competitions like The European Championships and The World Cup that take the world by storm every couple of years when they come around.
Many soccer supporters are huge fans of these competitions, but there is a competition that many might forget from time to time, and that’s the Olympics.
Many countries will put forward some of their best soccer players to bring home the silverware and earn these athletes their pride and honors.
Follow our guide to find out what soccer in the Olympics is like, what teams have competed, and what the difference is between this competition compared to the more mainstream forms of international soccer competitions.
You may find yourself itching to watch the next tournament!
What Are The Olympic Games?
The Olympic Games began as an ancient Greek sporting event that was held just once a year. It started with only two sports: wrestling and boxing.
Over time, however, it became much larger and included things like archery, discus throwing, javelin throwing, long jump, sprinting, jumping, shooting, swimming, weightlifting, and even marathon running.
While the modern-day games include athletics (track and field), there are still other sports that are played at the Summer Olympics.
For example, basketball and volleyball were introduced some time ago and have become popular favorites for those who wish to watch their favorite sports and their favorite athletes outside of the usual sporting seasons.
Is Soccer In The Olympics?
Yes, soccer is one of the official sports that can be played at the Olympics. While not every country has its national team, each nation will usually send a squad of players to compete against the others.
This competition is called the “Olympic Football Tournament.” Although most countries will see their national teams compete on the big stage outside of the Olympics, not every country sends a soccer side to the Olympics.
The fact of the matter is, many countries might not have enough players to compete or might not see the need to take part in the competition in this particular sport.
However, many South American and Asian countries often see their sides compete and will look to be bringing home the gold medals!
Are There Different Teams For Men And Women?
There are different teams for men and women. Some nations will select their younger male and female players to represent them.
Others will choose their top male and female athletes regardless of age.
Either way, you’ll find your country competing alongside other squads from all across the globe.
Of course, it would be unfair to have women and men compete against each other because there would simply be too many players involved.
Because of this, we usually see a women’s competition and a men’s competition when it comes to the soccer side of the Olympics.
So technically, the same country can win twice and will look to make the most of their time at the games.
It’s also a great way for the players to show the world how good they are and even earn themselves big transfers when they return to their respective clubs.
What Are The Medals That Can Be Won?
Each country will have a chance to qualify for the finals by winning matches during qualification tournaments. After that, the final round of play begins.
Each match is played over 90 minutes and is full of action. If a goal is scored, then the entire match becomes a sudden-death extra time period.
If no goals are scored, then the game goes into penalties where each team must score at least three goals or face elimination.
If your country makes it to the final round and wins its match, they’re going to win the highest award possible at the Olympics, and that’s the gold medal.
However, the runners-up don’t leave empty-handed! The country that finishes 2nd place at the Olympics will come away with silver medals, as well as knowing the whole world has seen them get to the final of the Olympics soccer tournaments, which is no small feat.
On top of this, the teams that lose in the semi-finals will be placed into a match against each other so they have a chance to win the bronze medal.
This ensures that everyone has a good chance at winning a medal and will have the chance to prove themselves on one of the biggest stages in the sporting world.
Things That Define A Winner
There are always going to be countries that excel and do better than others in these tournaments, with a few factors coming into each one.
The number of players available to play will always help because the more options at the country’s disposal, the more choices they have and the better chance they have at picking the right side.
On top of this, the quality of the players is always considered because of how high the level is for those taking part.
Notable former players that have taken part in recent history include Angel Di Maria, Lionel Messi, Neymar Jr., and Ryan Giggs.
These players represented Argentina, Brazil, and Team Great Britain respectively. These players have also featured for club sides such as Barcelona, Real Madrid, PSG, and Manchester United.
This just goes to show the levels of players that can be involved.
On top of this, it also helps to have young players as an option because of how many games come thick and fast.
With youth often comes more stamina, endurance, and drive, which can often make a huge difference between winning the tournament and not having enough to get the gold.
How Many Sides Take Part?
It’s always best to avoid comparing this competition to the World Cup or the Euros because there certainly aren’t as many teams competing compared to these major tournaments.
In the finals, 16 teams compete from different countries all around the world.
One finishes in first place, one in second, and one in third place. These countries all have to get through qualifying rounds before the Olympics take place by facing off against countries from the same confederations as them.
For example, countries like Colombia, Argentina, and Brazil will face off against each other for a sport at the Olympic games, whereas teams like France, Germany, and Spain will all battle it out to earn their spot at the tournament finals.
This ensures that the tournament isn’t just made up of countries from the same continent and will help to make sure that everyone gets a fair chance at qualifying for the games.
The Two Most Successful Countries
Of course, with so many different countries competing, there are going to be a handful that stands out from the rest. Two of these are Great Britain and Hungary.
The two countries have both won the tournament on multiple occasions and have stood in Olympics history for winning it more times than the other teams involved.
Winning the tournament twice, Team GB has seen some superstars featuring for their side.
Notable names include Ryan Giggs, Daniel Sturridge, Craig Bellamy, and Aaron Ramsey all feature for their country.
The last time they won the competition was in 2012 when the Olympics was hosted by Great Britain in London.
However, there is a lot of debate and scrutiny from fans of the international football teams in the UK, with many of them preferring their players to represent their countries and not the British side that is seen at the Olympics.
Notably, Gareth Bale was set to feature for the side, before dropping out due to a back problem at the last minute. Many Welsh fans believe he did this to avoid playing and to keep his Welsh international status intact.
Having one the tournament three times during the 20th Century, Hungary is up there with the biggest and best when it comes to Olympics soccer stardom.
With players like Puskas being recognized as one of the best strikers in the 1900s, there’s no surprise that the Europeans have staked their claim on the Olympic stage on more than one occasion.
Although Hungary might not be quite as internationally recognized in mainstream international football, they have seen their recent form and performances earn them lots of credit from football fans and pundits alike.
Are The Rules The Same At The Olympics?
Yes, yes they are! If you’re looking to follow the real thing closely then you can do so pretty much anywhere. There are still plenty of things that happen during FIFA matches that don’t occur in the Olympics.
For example, because there are only a limited number of teams competing, there isn’t more than one leg between two sides.
In club soccer, there are usually two legs toward the end of a knockout competition, like in the Champions League.
Also, there are no away goals because the matches are being played at a neutral location in the country that is hosting the Olympics.
In history, tournaments like the Champions League and the Europa League often involved an away goals rule.
This is where the away side’s goals can be used as a tiebreaker if the two teams score the same amount of goals and end up drawing after two legs.
So, there you have it! A brief insight into the history of the sport of soccer at the Summer Olympics.
Because of how many countries can take part and how many players can be called up, there is a much higher number of people involved in the tournament.
Great Britain, Hungary, and Brazil are three of the most successful Olympic soccer countries winning it on multiple occasions each.
Although these players feature for their national team outside of the Olympics, they are often called up for these special competitions once every four years and will do their best to compete in the qualifying rounds to get to the finals.
Notable players that have featured at these games can be seen playing for some of the biggest clubs in the world – showing how good these players have to be to win the tournament.
Frequently Asked Questions
When Are The Olympics Held?
The Summer Olympics take place every four years, with the most recent event occurring in Rio De Janeiro in 2016.
However, because of the pandemic, the games were postponed briefly to make sure the safety of the athletes was kept at the top of the priority list.
What Is The Duration Of An Olympic Game?
A game will typically consist of 90 minutes of play followed by 30 minutes of extra time and then finally penalty kicks (or golden goal in history) if required.
Games will also have a half-time interval of around 10 or 15 minutes to give the players a rest or a change of tactics to win the game. This is the same with soccer outside of the Olympic Games.
Do Olympic Soccer Teams Have A Men’s And A Women’s Side?
Yes. It would be unfair to put men and women players up against each other and there would simply be too many players involved from each country for everyone to take part.
Having a men’s side and women’s side competing at the Olympics gives the countries involved a bigger chance at winning some sort of silverware.