Facts from the past

WITH the 21st Olympic football tournament just around the corner, we stop the watch on 12 moments from its marathon past.

* Uruguay are the only South American team to have won gold. The Celeste won at Paris 1924 and Amsterdam 1928 before confirming their superiority in the game by lifting the inaugural FIFA World Cup as hosts in 1930. However, since that last triumph 75 years ago, they have failed to qualify for the Olympics.

* While the hosts have triumphed six times at the FIFA World Cup, the nation organising the Olympics has picked up first prize on just three occasions: Great Britain 1908, Belgium 1920, Spain 1992.

* Led by Puskas, Grosics, Czibor and Kocsis, Hungary, arguably the greatest team never to have won the FIFA World Cup, embraced Olympic glory at Helsinki 1952, two years before they were defeated in one of the most sensational FIFA finals ever when they lost 3-2 to Germany in 1954 after leading 2-0.

* From Helsinki 1952 to Los Angeles 1984, when professional players who had not performed at a FIFA World Cup were allowed to participate for the first time, the winning teams all heralded from Eastern Europe.

* Apart from the Second World War period (1940 and 1944), the only time an Olympic football tournament has not been staged was at Los Angeles 1932 following irreconcilable disputes over the status of players. With 12, the USA have played in the second most number of tournaments, one behind Italy.

* Great Britain won gold in the first two editions of the competition at London 1908 and Stockholm 1912 but due to the inability to field a four-association Great Britain side in European Olympic qualification tournaments, they have not featured since Mexico City 1968.

* China and Japan became the first Asian teams to compete at the Olympics at Berlin 1936. Japan, who, like Korea Republic, have competed six times in the football competition, are the most successful, picking up bronze at Mexico City 1968.

* While only seven teams have won the FIFA World Cup, 16 nations have claimed Olympic gold. Hungary, who have never won football's biggest event, top the charts with three victories, but Argentina, Brazil and Germany who boast more than half the number of World Cup successes, have never won at the Olympics.

* While Oleg Salenko holds the World Cup-record of striking five times in a single match for Russia versus Cameroon at USA 94, Denmark's Sophus Nielsen (in a 17-1 defeat of France at London 1908) and Germany's Gottfried Fuchs (in a 16-0 win against Russia at Stockholm 1912) doubled that number in a solitary game. With 13 goals in 1908, the same as France's Just Fontaine at Sweden 1958, Nielsen also holds the tournament scoring record. A female player is yet to score a hat-trick at the Olympics.

* Amsterdam 1928 was the only tournament where a replay was needed to decide the winner. Uruguay defeated rivals Argentina 2-1 three days after the sides drew 1-1. Sydney 2000 saw the first penalty shoot-out, Cameroon triumphing over Spain to give Africa its second consecutive title.

* 104,000 fans attended the Cameroon-Spain final at Sydney 2000, but the record crowd at an Olympic football tournament occurred in a third-place match between Mexico and Japan in 1968 when 105,000 crammed inside the Azteca stadium.

* The oldest player to perform at the Olympics is Brazilian women's goalkeeper Meg, who was 40 at Atlanta '96. The youngest, her countrywoman Daniela, was 16 years and eight months when she performed at Sydney 2000. However the minimum age of 16 has been scrapped for the third women's finals.