Since 1992, players of men's Olympic football must be under 23 years of age with three over 23 players allowed per squad. This arrangement was forged between the IOC and FIFA as a comprimise to boost the significance and quality of the Olympic competition without comprimising the FIFA World Cup and complementing their under 17 and under 20 tournaments.
Nigeria and Cameroon won gold in 96 and 00 respectively with Argentina the defending champions taking it out in Athens. Australia first qualified in the 56 Melbourne games as host nation and didn't requalify until 88. From 88 the Olyroos have successfully qualified for every games since with their best result being a fourth in the 92 Barcelona games.
Women's football has been in the olympics since 96 and the lovely Matildas qualified in 00 as host nation and again in Athens. Unfortunately the ladies failed to qualify for Beijing so unfortunately we don't have any calendars to look forward to.
The draw for the Beijing games is as follows:
Group A: Ivory Coast (but please how cool is saying Cote d'Ivoire), Serbia, Argentina, Australia
Group B: Netherlands, USA, Nigeria, Japan
Group C: China, Belgium, New Zealand, Brazil
Group D: South Korea, Italy, Cameroon, Honduras
The Olyroos face Serbia on August 7th, Argentina on the 10th, and Cote d'Ivoire on the 13th. Coach G. "I don't know what I'm doing" Arnold is confident he can steer the Olyroos to match, or better their last Olympic's result of making it to the quarter finals, but hey he was confident the Socceroos would win the Asian Cup.
The Olyroos squad picked for the games is as follows:
Mark Bridge (Sydney FC)
Billy Celeski (Melbourne Victory)
Adam Federici (Reading, England)
Neil Kilkenny (Leeds United, England)
Adrian Leijer (Fulham Athletic, England)
Trent McClenahan (uncontracted)
Mark Milligan (uncontracted)
Stuart Musialik (Sydney FC)
Nikita Rukavytsya (Perth Glory)
Kristian Sarkies (Adelaide United)
Matthew Spiranovic (FC Nurnberg, Germany)
Nikolai Topor-Stanley (Perth Glory)
James Troisi (uncontracted)
Tando Velaphi (Perth Glory)
Rueben Zadkovich (Derby County, England)
David Carney (Sheffield United, England)
Archie Thompson (Melbourne Victory)
Jade North (Newcastle Jets)
The real talk has been regarding European clubs releasing stars to play at the Olympics. Most notably is the defiant Batista (Argie coach) demanding that Lionel Messi be allowed to play all Olympic games despite Barcelona taking the matter to the court of arbitration for sport and succesfully overturning the original FIFA decision that clubs are obliged to release players for the Olympics. Will he stay or will he go? Who knows, FIFA is pleading that clubs conform to the spirit of the games and allow players to participate without retribution, but it will be something to keep an eye on before laying your bets.
Finally, Channel 7 have decided to cover the games as opposed to leaving them to their much better qualified broadcasting partner SBS. Fans of the game have not forgotten Channel 7's previous football coverage which has included missing goals due to ad breaks. I have no faith in Channel 7 nor Gordon Bray who has been named as match announcer. The game against Serbia is not only delayed but will be interrupted to announce who is going to be the flag bearer at the opening ceremony. Now word is that US broadcaster NBC is going to stream many of the Olympic football games live online. So instead of having to put up with the usual bullshit Olympic mash that Channel 7 broadcast you should be able to get Australia v Argentina live and uninterrupted. Follow this link and then sign up for live Olympic coverage (use for example 62260 as a valid zip code and charter communications as cable provider when asked).
Look out for some strong perfomances from Milligan and Troisi, both talented and both still looking for clubs. To be honest, I'm more concerned about Arnold as coach then I am any of the squad selections, but you can bet I will be cheering them on to gold and glory.