What we learned from Olympic football

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Despite all the promise shown in the group stages, Team GB's time at the Olympics came to a frustratingly familiar end. A penalty shoot-out defeat to South Korea signalled the lament of a nation bemoaning their footballing under-achievers, despite the fact Team GB haven't played together as a team since the 1970's. At least Ryan Giggs got a taste of what real tournament football is like.

Now four teams remain in the men's tournament with Brazil odds-on favourites to take the gold - but medals aside, has football at the Olympics been a hit? Here's three things we've learned from the past week or so.

Women’s football has value

Despite their early exit at the hands of Canada, Team GB were at least able to walk away with some reward for their efforts; the fact they were able to generate such sizeable crowds whenever they played thier fine brand of footbal will endure much longer than had they won a medal.

Against Brazil, for example, in front of a packed (record) house at Wembley, Team GB put on a scintillating display against their classy opponents, exhibiting just how high the level of skill in the women’s game is. Even before then a host of goals in the tournament that were fit to grace any men’s game showed just what these girls are capable of. It will be interesting to see how the game develops from here.

Big names aren’t the way forward

They came, they saw, and they, well, didn’t exactly conquer. Both Spain and Uruguay came into the tournament with, on paper at least, the best squads in the tournament. Neither made it past the group stages.

For Uruguay at least their exit will be particularly painful; last summer the were crowned kings of South America but with the likes of Edinson Cavani, Luis Suarez and Sebastian Coates on board they missed out to Senegal and Team GB.

Spain at least will be able to ignore their Olympic failure after a glorious summer at Euro 2012, but there is certainly food for thought for La Roja after seeing their youngsters fail to reach the heights of the full squad. Brazil, with all the strength they possess, are showing the others how it is done but perhaps for the value of the competition overall, keeping it as an under-23 tournament only may be for the best.


Football doesn’t belong in the Olympics


Despite the overriding positivity emanating from the Olympic football tournament, it doesn’t escape from the fact that, as a sport, it sits uncomfortably within the Olympic ideal.

The most damning example came during what should have been Great Britain’s finest hour, Saturday night when three golds came flooding in to give the host nation their most successful single night in Olympic track history.

What should have been a night of unadulterated celebration turned a little sour as Team GB lost on penalties to South Korea. Cue vitriol sent flying their way. The fact so many were willing to lambast Great Britain for their failings having spent a week celebrating in equal measures the mediocrity and the magnificent shows there is no room for football in the tournament.

In a game where the Olympics is not the pinnacle, where footballers do not work for four years for their one shot at greatness like other athletes and simply cannot be celebrated and commiserated in a manner similar to their countrymen, then there needs be no further evidence that they do not belong.

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