Tales from an author

#OlympicFootball History and why #Wayne Rooney is not England’s top international goalscorer!

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Today sees the start of football action at the Rio Olympics, two days before the formal opening ceremony. I may be part of a small majority of people in Britain who take Olympic football seriously, but elsewhere in the world it has a higher profile. The Brazil men’s team are seeking to win the Olympic title for the first time – in contrast to their five World Cup titles – while their compatriots in the Brazil women’s team will be equally determined.

Football featured as a demonstration sport in the 1900 and 1904 Olympics, restricted to minor club teams, but from 1908 to 1928 the international football tournaments at the Olympics served as a forerunner to the World Cup. I plan to post a series of Blog entries looking at Olympic Football, with material drawn from my recent book about international football.

Olympic Football 1908 (England)

The Olympics were held in London, and a proper international football tournament was staged as part of the games, during October. The plan had been to include eight teams in a knock-out, but the field was reduced by the withdrawals of Bohemia and Hungary. The six teams who did compete were the England Amateur team (representing Great Britain), Denmark, the Netherlands, Sweden, and two line-ups from France. England reached the Final by beating Sweden 12-1 and the Netherlands 4-0. Meanwhile Denmark – who had not previously played international football – beat the France B team 9-0, and went even better against France A, running up a 17-1 victory, in which Sophus Nielsen scored 10 goals. The demoralised French decided against competing for third place, and the Bronze Medal Match saw the Netherlands defeating Sweden. England beat Denmark 2-0 in the Final, before a crowd of 8,000 at the White City stadium, to effectively become the first football world champions. England’s goals in the Final were scored by Frederick Chapman and Vivian Woodward.

Vivian Woodward was one of the greatest players of the era, scoring 29 goals in 23 internationals for the full England team between 1903 and 1911. Woodward also scored 57 times during 44 matches for the England Amateur team, in a parallel run between 1906 and 1914. FIFA (but not the Football Association) consider matches of the England Amateur team against the full team of other countries to be full internationals – something which applies to 30 games, in which Woodward scored 44 goals. Woodward’s “official” tally is therefore 73 goals from 53 games – placing him far ahead of Wayne Rooney, who became the first man to reach 50 goals for England in undisputed internationals during 2015.

Final October 24, London England 2 Denmark 0

Bronze Medal Match            Netherlands 2 Sweden 0


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