Whilst the World Cup has often been the measuring stick for success in football, other competitions have also showcased some of the best talent in the world. Perhaps none more than the Olympic Games which consistently proves itself to be one of the most underrated football competitions in football. Many of the game’s greatest names have participated at the ultimate sporting spectacle and won the tournament even if their names are sacrificed for the great of their nations. With all this mind, which teams have proven themselves to be the greatest Olympic football winners of all time?
Greatest Olympic football winners ever
Hungary may not be a football powerhouse in the modern game but back in the 1950’s, they were one of the most feared teams on the planet. The birth of “The Magnificent Magyars” was seen at the 1952 Olympic football event in Helsinki where Hungary would defeat Yugoslavia 2-0 to emerge as tournament winners and claim gold. On the pitch that day were some of the greatest to ever play the game including Ferenc Puskas, Sandor Kocsis and Jozsef Boszik.
This team would dominate football throughout the 1950’s and early 1960s and were the perennial rivals of the great Brazilian team that featured the likes of Pele. This core squad of Hungarians would also go on to win the gold medal at the 1960 and 1964 Olympics – a joint record for most wins in the male football side that stands to this day.
Soviet Union (1956)
The golden era for soccer would continue just four years later in Melbourne where it was the Soviet Union that would triumph in Australia. The USSR beat Yugoslavia – the third straight tournament in which they finished with a silver medal – 1-0 in the final with a youthful and exuberant side. There were some big names to emerge from that squad none more so than legendary goalkeeper Lev Yashin who marked his arrival on the scene with some commanding performances during the tournament. He was accompanied by other greats like Valentin Ivanov and Mikhail Ogonkov to lead a side that would reach the later stages of many major tournaments throughout the 1960s.
Fast forward to the start of a new millennium and the rise of African football quite arguably peaked in Sydney when Cameroon won the gold medal building on the success that Nigeria enjoyed 4 years previously. What makes Cameroon’s success so memorable was the amount of stars that would emerge from the young side that beat Spain 5-3 on penalties after a 2-2 draw aet. This squad included the likes of Arsenal’s “Invincible” Lauren, Chelsea star Geremi and a young striker by the name of Patrick Eto’o. The names that emerge from this scene showed what was capable from African nations and that football was now truly a global game.
Its amazing to think that Argentina have failed to win a major trophy in the last decade or so and that their last real major tournament win was in Beijing at the 2008 Olympics. The Argentine squad successfully defended the gold medal that they won previously in 2004 with a young and fierce attacking side.
Many of the names included in the squad have developed into some of the greatest strikers in the world today including Sergio Aguero, Gonzalo Higuain, Angel Di Maria and even Lionel Messi. The core of this team produced a continual winning streak of 12 games over 2 competitions – a record streak to this day and Javier Mascherano’s appearance in both title winning sides makes him one of the most successful Argentine Olympians of all time.
When Brazil became the first South American nation to host the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro in 2016, the football competition was scheduled to play a big part of the festivities. Unlike the 2014 World Cup, the hosts didn’t disappoint their nation avenging their humiliating defeat to Germany two years previously by winning 5-4 on penalties after drawing 1-1 in regular time. Led by home favourite Neymar and supported by the likes of Gabriel Jesus and Felipe Anderson, Brazil finally got to enjoy the fairytale ending in the Maracana that had eluded so many times before and create an Olympic memory that will be remembered for decades down the line.
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