TEAM BY TEAM REVIEW
AUSTRALIA: Australia performed poorly for hosts, losing all three group games after coming close to getting points in each. The most dangerous offensive threat Mark Viduka was heavily marked and some awful defensive mistakes by the normally reliable Hayden player along with Viduka, was the best performer. Harry Kewell’s injury which made him miss the start of the 2000/01 Premier League season meant that Australia’s best player could not be present.BRAZIL: Brazil chose not to bring any overage players and eventually Wanderley Luxemburgo paid for this by losing his job as both U/23 and national team manager. With the Olympics being the only FIFA championship that Brazil have not won, it was considered important but their best players Ronaldinho and Alex did not perform at their best. A shock loss to South Africa in the group stage was eventually followed by a loss to Cameroon in extra-time in the quarter-finals.
CAMEROON: Cameroon were the gold medallists. They had a good team that improved after a shaky start where they finished second in their group after draws with USA and the Czech Republic. The stars were forwards Patrick Mboma and Samuel Eto’o, midfielders Lauren and Geremi and 16 year old goalkeeper Idriss Carlos Kameni. They won during extra time with a Modeste Mbami goal against Brazil, scored two late goals to beat Chile and won in a penalty shoot-out in the final.
CHILE: Chile won the bronze medal. They had become the favourites after impressive wins in their first two games. Chile were led by veteran striker Ivan Zamorano who was the best player in the tournament with six goals. Playmaker David Pizarro and Reinaldo Navia, who scored four goals, also played well. Chile eventually lost to winners Cameroon in the semi-final in a match between the tournament’s two best teams.
CZECH REPUBLIC: The Czech Republic were the European U/21 Championship runner-ups and featured Marek Jankulowski, a member of their Euro 2000 squad. They failed to perform in Sydney with two draws with semi-finalists USA and Cameroon giving them their only points.
HONDURAS: Honduras performed surprisingly well in the Olympics with a draw against Nigeria where only defensive errors prevented a victory. They also beat Australia but failed to qualify for the next round. The best player was Italian-based striker David Suazo whose size and speed made him unstoppable, scoring four goals in the tournament.
ITALY: Italy were the European U/21 Championship winners and decided not to add any overage players to their squad. Their strength was in the midfield with Gennaro Gattuso, Roberto Baronio, Massimo Ambrosini, Gianluca Zambrotta and Andrea Pirlo. Christian Abbiati was one of the best goalkeepers in the tournament. Zambrotta was very impressive before being injured and ruled out for the quarter-final where Italy lost to Spain. Baronio also missed this game due to suspension.
JAPAN: Japan beat Slovakia and South Africa, but lost to Brazil, to finish second in their group. They then lost to USA on penalties after a 2-2 draw in the quarter-final. Naohiro Takahara scored three goals helped by star playmaker Hidetoshi Nakata, already a multiple Asian Player of the Year at just 23. Other stars included Shunsuke Nakamura and Junichi Inamoto.
KOREA REPUBLIC: Korea Republic beat Morocco and Chile in the group stage but failed to qualify for the next round. This was a very disappointing result given the large amount of warm-up games played. Their players included striker Lee Dong-Gook.
KUWAIT: Kuwait beat the Czech Republic but did not qualify from their group. They were led by forwards Bashar Abdullah and Farj Laheeb.
MOROCCO: Morocco lost all three games in a disappointing Sydney 2000 Olympics campaign.
NIGERIA: Nigeria were the defending Olympic champions and boasted an impressive attacking force led by Victor Agali, who scored three goals, Pius Ikedia and Julius Aghahowa. Garba Lawal and Celestine Babayaro were part of the 1996 winning team. Nigeria almost lost to Honduras in their first game, then beat Australia and drew with Italy. They were knocked out by Chile in the next round however.
SLOVAKIA: Slovakia were one of the favourites to be knocked out inn the group stage, and they were, but they managed to beat South Africa to stop them progressing through to the next round.
SOUTH AFRICA: South Africa’s sole win was against Brazil. They were led by Quentin Fortune, Benni McCarthy and Siyabonga Nomvete. They looked a possibility to progress before losing to Slovakia.
SPAIN: Spain were the silver medallists, and the one team to perform well that did not include overage players, with Italy and Brazil being knocked out in the quarter-finals. Their team involved playmaker Xavi, supersub Gabri who scored three goals, forward Jose Mari who also scored three goals and Miguel Angel Angulo who missed a penalty in the final.
USA: USA had an improved team due to the money poured into youth development to support Major League Soccer, and finished fourth, losing to Spain in the semi-final and to Chile for the bronze medal. Josh Wolff and Chris Albright scored two goals and Pete Vagenas scored three including two penalties. Other good players included 1999 World U/17 Championships star Landon Donovan, Ajax player John O’Brian, MLS star Ben Olsen and the lone college player Conor Casey.
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