Olympics: How are football teams chosen and why is there no men’s GB team?

All the information you need about how qualification works in Olympic football

Sarah Rendell
Monday 26 July 2021 09:23
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The men and women’s football competitions are underway at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.

After two matches in the group stage in the men’s event Japan lead Group A, South Korea top Group B, Spain are first in Group C and Brazil lead Group D.

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The knock-out rounds start on 31 July with the final taking place on 7 August.

In the women’s competition after two group games Britain lead Group E, the Netherlands are first in Group F and Sweden top Group G.

The quarter-finals begin on 30 July and the final commences on 5 August.

But how do teams qualify for the Olympics and how are they chosen? Here’s all you need to know about the events.

How does each nation qualify for Olympic football?

Continents are give the amount of countries they are allowed to send to the Games.

At Tokyo, Africa were given three men’s teams and 1.5 women’s (the half refers to a play-off to qualify for the Olympics), Asia have three men’s and two women’s, Europe have four men’s and three women’s, Oceania have one men’s and one women’s, South America have two men’s and 1.5 women’s and North America have two men’s and two women’s.

Europe use the Men’s Under-21 Championship and FIFA Women’s World Cup to decide qualification. The other regions use qualification tournaments to determine who goes to the Games.

And the host country qualifies for both the men and women’s competition.

How the teams were chosen

In the context of men’s football, the International Olympic Committee only allow players on the teams to be aged 23 or under. There is an exception to this rule as three selected over the age 23 are permitted on the squad list.

Clubs are also not forced to release players for the event.

Women’s football works differently as they are allowed to choose any players they would like, regardless of age.

Why isn’t there a Team GB men’s squad?

The last time a men’s Team GB squad competed at the Olympics was in London 2012. At the time the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish FAs were concerned they would lose their Home Nations status given to them by FIFA if they participated in a Team GB.

Despite being reassured by ex-FIFA president Sepp Blatter that that wouldn’t happen, only English and Welsh players competed in 2012.

When organising a team for the 2016 Games the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish FA’s turned down ideas put forward for how the squad would come together.

An agreement wasn’t reached and so there was no men’s Team GB squad at Rio and a similar situation happened ahead of Tokyo.

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