The groups for the men's Olympic Football Tournament have been drawn in Zurich, Switzerland. Find out all the details below...
Excitement is building for the men's Olympic Football Tournament that will take place in Tokyo this summer. 16 teams were drawn in four groups, with top seeds that included hosts Japan, Korea Republic, Argentina and Brazil.
Japan were first out of the pot and drawn in Group A. They will face South Africa, Mexico and France. In what will be the opening match of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, Japan will take on South Africa in Tokyo Stadium.
Group B was made up of under-23 Asian champions, Korea Republic, Honduras, New Zealand and Romania. New Zealand scored 33 goals in qualifying, making them the most potent attack going into the Games.
Two-time Olympic gold medallists, Argentina were joined in Group C by Barcelona 1992 champions Spain. They will be joined by Egypt and Australia.
Finally, reigning Olympic champions, Brazil face their Rio 2016 final opponents Germany in Group D. The other teams in the group include Côte d'Ivoire and Saudi Arabia.
Men's Olympic Football Tournament full draw
Group A: Japan, South Africa, Mexico, France.
Group B: New Zealand, Korea Republic, Honduras, Romania.
Group C: Egypt, Spain, Argentina, Australia.
Group D: Brazil, Germany, Côte d'Ivoire, Saudi Arabia.
When does the tournament begin?
The men’s Olympic football tournament (OFT) of the Tokyo 2020 Games will take place from 22 July to 7 August 2021 across six Japanese cities. Always among the most popular of the team competitions in the Summer Games, the men’s OFT is made up of youth teams – with each participating country allowed to supplement their squad with three overage players.
Some of the world’s brightest-shining stars have taken to the football stages of the Olympic Games, including recent gold-medal winners Lionel Messi and Neymar. Join Tokyo2020 for a look back – and ahead – at the men’s Olympic football tournament.
With the Olympic Games in 2021 just around the corner, Tokyo 2020 takes a look back at some of the best goals scored at the men's Olympic football tournaments.
Teams for 2021
A field of 16 teams – who all reached the Games via grueling regional qualifiers – arrive in Japan from five continents. Reigning champions Brazil join twice winners Argentina (2004 and 2008) as the South American competitors.
Africa, which has produced two gold-medal winners since Nigeria’s outstanding debut in the United States in 1996, send 2010 World Cup hosts South Africa, as well as Côte d'Ivoire and Egypt while Australia fly the flag from the Asian qualifying zone along with Saudi Arabia, the Republic of Korea (2012 bronze medallists) and, of course, hosts Japan (who also earned bronze in 1968).
Mexico (2012 gold-medal winners) lead the pack as champions of the North, Central American and Caribbean zone – and they will be joined by neighbours Honduras, who have excelled in recent years and finished just off the podium in Rio in fourth.
New Zealand are the lone standard bearers from the South Seas while the old continent of Europe (producer of 18 of 26 gold medals in football since the turn on the last century) arrive with a raft of powerful representatives. European U-21 champions Spain are joined by France (1984 gold-medal winners), Germany and Romania, who haven’t reached an OFT since the last time the Games were in Tokyo in 1964.
Players to watch
Questions marks abound as to which of the world’s footballers will take to the stages of this Olympic Games. The tournament’s unique format never fails to create mystery and intrigue as to who will, and won’t, go. But leaving aside which overage players may be brought along, there’s a great deal of talent at the youth level to consider.
Mexico roared to the top of their qualifying group thanks to a trio of outstanding attackers (Uriel Antuna, Jose Juan ‘JJ’ Macias and Alexis Vega) from club side Chivas.
2021 Getty Images
Among Spain’s outstanding young squad, Dani Olmo (of RB Leipzig in Germnay) stands above the rest. Having recently made himself a regular in Luis Enrique’s senior national team, Olmo’s long-distance shooting and clever reading of the game, mark him out among those to watch closely in Tokyo.
“For a footballer, the Games are something that happen once in a lifetime, so one of my goals is to secure a place on the team,” he told FIFA.com after helping Spain win the 2019 U-21 European championship. “It's not going to be easy, as the standard in the squad is very high, and there’s a lot of competition.”
Among France’s youngsters are the trio of Dayot Upamecano (Olmo’s teammate in Leipzig), Matteo Guendouzi of Arsenal (on loan at Hertha BSC) and Colin Dagba, who recently reached the Champions League semifinals with PSG.
2018 Getty Images
With a busy summer of global football that involves The European Cup of Nations (EURO), a CONCACAF Gold Cup and Copa America and FIFA World Cup qualifiers, the full make-up of the Olympic squads will likely not be know until the official deadline in early June.
The men’s Olympic Football Tournament, as we understand it today, began at the London 1908 Games (in the two previous editions, club teams – not national teams – competed).
Great Britain won the first two Olympic golds of the modern format (1908 and 1912) – a fitting position for the inventors of the game. After Belgium took gold at home in Antwerp in 1920, South America’s dominance made itself known with Uruguay winning twice in a row in Paris 1924 and Amsterdam 1928.
Football was not in the programme for the 1932 Games in Los Angeles, and the next 13 editions of the tournament were dominated by the Europeans, with its competitors winning all the gold on offer from 1936 to 1992 – when Spain won in Barcelona.
The African continent had its say at the Atlanta Games when a wildly talented generation of Nigerian players stormed to the crown. Those groundbreaking Super Eagles were joined in the record books by a golden Cameroon side four years later.
Argentina won both golds in 2004 and Beijing 2008 (propelled in the latter by a certain Lionel Messi) while Mexico became the first country from outside of Europe, South America or Africa to win gold when they edged Brazil at the London 2012 Games.
Neymar made history for his home nation last time out at Rio 2016 as he led the host Brazilians to gold (the OFT had been the only major international men’s football tournament that the South American giants hadn’t yet won up to that point).
Past medal winners
Some of the most iconic names in the history of football – as well as its most thrilling modern practitioners – have gone home with Olympic medals.
Spanish goalkeeping legend Ricardo Zamora (whose names adorns the award given to Spain’s top ’keeper each year) won silver in 1920. Another legendary goalkeeper, Lev Yashin, scooped gold for the USSR in Melbourne in 1956. Four years earlier, Real Madrid legend Ferenc Puskas (whose name was given to the award honouring the best goal scored each year in world football) won a gold with Hungary.
Polish icon Grzegorz Lato wore gold in 1972. Dunga took silver in 1984 in Los Angeles before leading Brazil to a FIFA World Cup in that very same city ten years later. German hero Jurgen Klinsmann earned Bronze in Seoul in 1988 while Pep Guardiola – among the world’s greatest coaches – led Spain to gold at home in 1992.
Jay-Jay Okocha, Sunday Oliseh and Nwankwo Kanu (Nigeria) won gold in Atlanta in 1996 while Ghana and Bayern Munich hero Sami Kuffour earned bronze in 1992. Samuel Eto’o took gold with Cameroon in Sydney in 2000 (the same year Spain’s Xavi and Carles Puyol had to be content merely with silver).
Romario, Bebeto, O Fenomeno Ronaldo (Brazil), Andrea Pirlo (Italy) and, of course, the contemporary heroes of Messi and Neymar have all worn Olympic medals around their necks – and the list goes on and on.
Tokyo 2020 tournament format
Since 1992, the men’s Olympic football tournament has been played at a youth-level with the teams comprised of players 23 years of age and under. All teams are allowed to add three over-age players to their young squads thus making the Olympic football tournament an interesting hybrid with possibilities aplenty.
The core of this year’s teams will be made up of players 24 years of age and younger so as to accommodate the year-long delay in the Games caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
2008 Getty Images
The 16 qualified nations will be drawn into four groups of four and will be based among the venue cities of Kashima, Saitama, Sapporo, Sendai, and Yokohama. The last-four rounds will take place at the Ibaraki Kashima Stadium and Saitama Stadium, while the final will be played at the International Stadium Yokohama.
The top two finishers from each of the four first-round groups will move on to the single-elimination knockout rounds. Beginning at the quarter-finals stage, the winners will move on to the semifinals. The winners of those two games will then contest the final on 7 August with the two losing semifinalists playing for bronze and a place on the podium.