By David Owen
March 2 – The Football Association is keen for Great Britain teams once again to participate in the Olympic football tournament at next year's Games in the football-besotted city of Rio de Janeiro. This follows the appearance of both men's and women's teams at London 2012, when it was felt desirable that the host nation should be represented if possible in every sport. Prior to that, no British team had played at any Olympics for more than half a century.
While the move may spark friction with football authorities in the other Home Nations, the FA would only stand a chance of getting its wish were English sides to secure qualification in competitions this summer.
For the men, this would entail a top-four finish in June at the European Under-21 Championship finals in the Czech Republic. Besides the host nation, England is up against Italy, Portugal, Sweden, Germany, Denmark and Serbia in that eight-team competition. The Olympic men's football tournament is an under-23 contest, but with three over-age players per squad permitted.
England's women would need to be one of the top three European sides at this year's Women's World Cup in Canada. At present, the England women are ranked sixth in the world and fourth in Europe behind Germany, France and Sweden. There is no age restriction in the Olympic women's football tournament.
At London 2012, both Great Britain teams were eliminated in the quarter-finals. Only English and Welsh players were included in the men's squad, which was captained by Manchester United veteran Ryan Giggs (a Welshman).
Prior to that, Rome 1960 was the last Olympic football tournament Great Britain had played in. In spite of this long hiatus, Britain remains one of the most successful Olympic football nations, having won the gold medals in 1900, 1908 and 1912.
That is three more gold medals than, for example, Brazil, which is likely to be desperate to win next year's competition, both to break that duck and help dim the memory of last year's sorry demise in the second World Cup that the country has hosted. Neymar recently indicated that he hopes to be part of the Brazilian men's Olympic squad.
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