Olympic Football Review and looking ahead to Tokyo 2020

Olympic Football Review and looking ahead to Tokyo 2020

The Olympic Games is adjudged as the pinnacle of sporting events, and rightly so – with football playing a role in the global spectacle.

The Rio Games have come to a conclusion, with arguably Brazil’s success in the football component the host nation’s proudest achievement from the showcase.

It was the first time that the Samba nation have won the Olympic title, with Neymar’s decisive penalty claiming victory in the shootout for the South Americans in the final against Germany.

Looking at it objectively, the hosts winning the tournament was probably the best outcome for the sport as a spectacle.

Neymar’s presence was the most high-profile – a bonafide world superstar playing in the biggest of world events.

His young accomplices, Gabriel Jesus and Gabriel Barbosa, may well be viewed in the same regard one day and the Brazil team could be revered in the future for the talent it possessed.

The Olympics certainly have had some entertaining and high-scoring games, but in general the competition will not be memorable for most outside Brazil.

Although the host nation celebrated their victory vehemently, the tournament was played with low attendances as a backdrop and the wider social issues surrounding the Olympics in general casting a dark cloud over the entire event.

Neymar’s decision to play in the Olympics rather than in the Copa America bucked the trend of the footballing world in terms of priorities and stumped the football betting bookies like William Hill in the UK.

Chile’s victory over Argentina in the final of the 100-year anniversary Copa America, played earlier this summer, holds more clout from a pure footballing perspective than Brazil’s victory at the Olympics.

Despite the Olympics being the be-all and end-all for most athletes, for footballers, in reality, it is a footnote in a distinguished player’s career.

Lionel Messi is an Olympic champion with Argentina but his exploits with Barcelona categorise him as the world’s best player.

The hurt of losing in the Copa America final this summer would have outweighed the elation of winning the Olympics ten-fold given the perceived importance of the relevant competitions.

Looking forward, the Olympics in Tokyo have the potential to be more popular and successful than the tournament that has just been completed in Brazil.

A football-mad Japanese public will surely support the competition wholeheartedly and will hopefully have an able team to support in the form of the hosts.

But, although an under-23 tournament format will remain, persuading the best players in the world of that age group to compete is the major task.

European club football rules the roost in the global game, with clubs eager to avoid sending their young stars to another tournament in the domestic off-season.

As such, having someone of Neymar’s calibre compete in four years time appears unlikely and despite the romance of Brazil winning the tournament on home soil for the first time, Olympic football is still well behind the more traditional global and club competitions in terms of prestige.