The first FIFA Women’s Olympic Football Tournament was held in 1996, with the host country being the highlight of this landmark event. The competition has been held once every four years since, with a fifth edition due to take place again in 2020. All matches are 20 minutes in length, with a penalty shoot-out used as the final tie-breaking mechanism. The first edition of the Women’s Olympic Football Tournament (now known as the Women’s Football Gold Cup) was held in 1996, but it wasn’t until Rio de Janeiro hosted again in 2016 that its men’s counterpart had its version. In 2020, France will be hosting both tournaments once more and we take a look back at some of the most memorable moments from previous editions...
1996: Women’s Olympic Football Tournament
The first-ever Women’s Olympic Football Tournament took place in the summer of 1996 in the Brazilian city of Atlanta. The host nation was the one to lift the gold medal, with the USA taking silver and Norway securing bronze. The tournament was played according to the standard rules of the game, with two halves of 20 minutes and a penalty shoot-out used as the tie-breaking mechanism if required. For the first time, women had a chance to showcase their skills at an Olympic level and it was the Brazilians who ultimately came out on top. While the likes of Mia Hamm and Brandi Chastain would not be appearing in this tournament, the majority of their teammates would go on to become global superstars.
2004: Women’s Olympic Football Tournament
The second Women’s Olympic Football Tournament took place in the Chinese city of Athens, with the host nation emerging victorious. The USA took silver once more, and this time it was Canada who came away with bronze. There were no changes made to the format of the tournament, and with the standard rules of the game in play the host nation would go on to secure their second Olympic gold medal in the women’s game.
2008: Women’s Olympic Football Tournament
Beijing hosted the third Women’s Olympic Football Tournament, with the Chinese again emerging victorious. The hosts’ victory was identical to that of 12 years earlier, with the USA claiming silver and Canada bronze. For the first time in the history of the Olympic women’s game, the tournament format was changed. The traditional two halves of 20 minutes were exchanged for four 10-minute quarters, and a penalty shoot-out was added to the tie-breaking mechanism if necessary. While the USA were once again able to claim silver and Canada bronze, the tournament was not without controversy.
2012: Women’s Olympic Football Tournament
The Chinese hosted another Women’s Olympic Football Tournament in 2012, and they went on to claim their third gold medal in the process. The hosts edged out the USA on goal difference, with Canada securing their second bronze medal. There were no changes made to the tournament format, with the standard rules of the game in play and four 10-minute quarters with a penalty shoot-out as the tie-breaking mechanism. In what was the most dominant performance by a single nation in any of the tournaments, the Chinese went on to claim their second Olympic gold medal at the women’s level.
2016: Women’s Olympic Football Tournament
The third Women’s Olympic Football Tournament held in Rio de Janeiro saw the USA lift gold for the third time in the history of the event. The host's Brazil claimed silver, with Japan’s third-place finish earning them bronze. Like the 2008 edition, the tournament format was changed, with two halves of 30 minutes being played for each match. A penalty shoot-out was added in the event of a draw. The host nation claimed silver after being defeated by the USA in the final, while Japan’s bronze medal was the result of a penalty shoot-out victory over Sweden in the third-place match.
2020: Women’s Olympic Football Tournament
For the fifth time in its history, the Women’s Olympic Football Tournament will take place in the French city of Paris. The format of the tournament will be the same as that which was used in 2016, with two halves of 30 minutes being played for each match followed by a penalty shoot-out if necessary. The USA is the reigning gold medal winner, while Brazil has lifted the silver medal in all four editions of the event since they came into being. It remains to be seen who goes on to claim the gold medal in 2020, but one thing is certain: the standard rules of the game will be on display once again.
The Olympic Football Tournament has been a real showcase for some of the most talented women’s players in the world, and we’re expecting the same again in 2020. With the standard rules of the game in play, and some of the top nations in the world competing, we’re expecting an exciting tournament that will be sure to delight fans around the globe. The USA and Brazil will be the teams to look out for, with the Chinese and French also expected to be competitive.