Introduction to Olympic Football

Football | Published: Wed 3 August 2016

Who: 609 athletes from 23 countries

What: Men’s and women’s tournaments

Where: Marcana / Corinthians Arena / Fonte Nova Arena / Mane Garrincha Stadium / Mineirao / Olympics Stadium

When: 12 match days throughout the Olympic schedule



The world game returns to the home of the 2014 FIFA World Cup where Football is a religion and the passion and fanfare in the stadiums matches the action on the pitch.


The Olympic Football format differs slightly in the men’s and women’s tournaments – in that the men’s competition is age-restricted (U23s) permitting three "over age” athletes per nation, whilst the women’s is non age-restricted and follows in the open format of the FIFA Women’s World Cup.


Teams are divided into groups of four nations, with a round robin format following that sees team’s earn:


  • Three points for a win
  • One point for a draw
  • Zero points for a loss


The top two nations in each group progress to the knock out phase, with teams seeded by virtue of finishing first or second in their group. The winners and losers of the semi-final stage, play-off for gold and bronze respectively.


Goal difference (tallied on goals scored versus goals conceded) is used to split teams on equal points at the culmination of the group stage, with head to head record or goals scored used to further adjudicate if and as necessary.


Matches are played over two 45 minute halves, with 11 players on either side.




With footballers amongst the world’s biggest stars, Brazil will boast the highest profile name at this year’s football tournament, with Barcelona superstar Neymar highlighting Brazil’s quest to win a first ever Olympic gold medal in men’s football.


The USA has dominated women’s Olympic football, winning four of the five gold medals on offer since the sport was first opened up to women at Olympic level in 1996.


The Olyroos missed qualification for Rio, meaning Australian hopes are firmly pinned on the Matildas. The weight of expectation hasn’t burdened the Aussie women however, with the girls producing a dominant qualifying campaign against a highly ranked international field (including Japan, North Korea and China) in the Asian confederation earlier in 2016, winning all but one match in sealing a berth for Rio.


Australia has never won a Football medal at Olympic level and the Matildas will kick start their campaign in Brazil, before the official opening ceremony.


The Matildas will go head to head with Canada at 2am Perth time on Thursday morning before clashing with Germany (Aug 6) and Zimbabwe (Aug 10) in their group, with the top two nations progressing to the knockouts.


The Australian team features two Western Australian athletes, with Lisa De Vanna and Sam Kerr both members of the Matildas squad in Rio.


De Vanna is the only member of the Matildas squad with previous Olympic experience, playing for Australia at the Athens 2004 Games, which is the last time the women’s team featured at Olympic level.


Sam Kerr scored for the Matildas in their historic Asian Cup success back in 2010 and the Aussies will be looking for more history in Brazil when the action gets under way tomorrow morning. 


To follow the Lisa De Vanna and Sam Kerr’s campaign in Rio, view their bios below, including information on when they’re in action in Brazil.



Lisa De Vanna



Sam Kerr