Road to Olympics 2012: How teams qualify for the Olympic games

At the Olympics there will be a host of talented footballers on show but how did their teams make it to the United Kingdom? sheds some light on the qualification process.
The Olympics 2012 football events will commence on the 25th of July, two days prior to the Opening Ceremony. The first men's football match will be on the 26th of July at the Old Trafford stadium. A total of 16 teams will participate in the men's category. Each squad will comprise of 18 players, out of which only three players may be over the age of 23.

Being the hosts, Great Britain automatically qualify for the Olympics. Let us take a look at how the rest of the teams had to earn themselves a spot...

I. AFC Preliminary Competition (Asia)

From the Asian sector, 35 nations entered the tournament. The top 13 teams are picked based on their performances during the qualifiers and finals of the last Olympics.

Those 13 sides are given a bye for the first preliminary round. The remaining 22 teams compete in two-legged knockout ties and the 11 winners progress to the second round where they are joined by the 13 top seeds. India faced Myanmar and beat them 2-1 in the first leg before drawing 1-1 in the second and progressing on a 3-2 aggregate scoreline.

The 24 teams once again play knock-out ties and the 12 winners advance to the next round. India lost 3-1 in their first leg against Qatar and drew 1-1 in the second. They were eliminated on an aggregate scoreline of 4-2.

The remaining 12 teams are divided into three groups of four each. The winners of each group qualify for the Olympics. The three runners-up form another group from which the winner advances to a play-off against the fourth team from the CAF Preliminary Competition for a spot at the Olympics.

Qualified teams: South Korea, Japan, United Arab Emirates.

II. CAF Preliminary Competition (Africa)

The competition is primarily an U-23 Championship between African teams but it also acts as qualifiers for the Olympics. Eight teams participate in the tournament where they are split into two groups of four each.

The top two teams from each group progress to the semi-finals. The two finalists are automatically selected for the Olympics while the third spot is decided by means of a play-off game between the two losing semi-finalists.

Qualified teams: Gabon, Morocco, Egypt, Senegal (via AFC-CAF play-off)

III. CONCAF Preliminary Competition (North America, Central America and Caribbean)

The competition involved eight teams which were divided into two groups of four. The top 2 from each group advanced to the semi-finals and the finalists were awarded a spot each at the Olympics.

Qualified teams: Mexico, Honduras

IV. CONMEBOL Preliminary Competition (South America)

Ten nations enter the competition and are split into two groups of five. The top three teams from each group are entered into a league after which the top two secure their spots at the Olympics.

Qualified teams: Brazil, Uruguay

V. OFC Preliminary Competition (Oceania)

Seven teams participate and are seperated into two groups of four in Group A and three in Group B. The top two teams from each group progress to the semi-finals and only the winners of the final game is selected for the Olympics.

Qualified team: New Zealand

VI. UEFA Preliminary Competition (Europe)

Eight teams qualify for this competition and are seeded into pots 1,2 and 3 depending on their average points per game during the qualifying phase. Pots 1 and 2 consists of two teams each while Pot 3 consists of four.

The eight teams are then drawn into two groups from which the top two advance to the semi-finals. Eventually, the two finalists qualify for the Olympics while the two losing semi-finalists face each other in a play-off for the third qualifying spot.

Qualified teams: Spain, Switzerland, Belarus

Team Great Britain

The United Kingdom proposed that the British nations join forces for the football events of the Olympics and play under the banner, "Great Britain". The Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish football associations were against the move out of fear that their status within FIFA would be affected as a result. However, FIFA ruled that the proposed move would not be against any regulations and effectively gave their consent. As a result, amongst a majority of English players, Great Britain will also field Neil Taylor, Joe Allen, Ryan Giggs, Aaron Ramsey and Craig Bellamy, all of Welsh nationality. Former Welsh international, Ryan Giggs will captain the side.

2008 gold medalists, Argentina miss out 

There's been a bit of confusion as to why the Argentinian side aren't involved at the 2012 Olympics. Argentina simply did not qualify. The top two teams from the CONMEBOL competition occupy the two Olympic spots for South America and Argentina finished third behind Brazil and Uruguay. The simple explanation for their failure to qualify is that they didn't have as good a team as they had last time around. In 2008, the likes of Sergio Aguero, Angel Di Maria and Ever Banega were already established players in European football who featured in the U-20 Youth Championship to win a spot at the Olympics.

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