Giant on the move
But perhaps a bit of African improvisation would not be such a bad thing.
Nigeria went on to reach the final of the tournament, beating old rivals the Ivory Coast and then thrashing Belgium 4-1 before coming unstuck against Argentina. Their semi-final performance against Belgium mixed moments of sublime skill with reckless defending and woeful, shoddy finishing. But the scoreline speaks for itself.
In the last few years, African players have emigrated en masse to Europe and their national teams have hired European coaches. A small group of these trainers now seem to have the main national sides sewn up, moving around in an endless game of musical coaches.
Four of the five African representatives at the last World Cup were coached by Europeans.
FIFA president Sepp Blatter says he does not see any need to change the format of the Olympic soccer tournament, which is restricted to under-23 teams and allows each to field up to three overage players.
Many people, however, feel that soccer is something of an unwelcome gatecrasher at the Games and that not bringing its top players is rather like turning up at the party with a bottle of cheap plonk.
The cheers before kickoff in the Beijing Workers’ Stadium were for five-times world champions Brazil and Ronaldinho. At the final whistle, the Chinese crowd rose to acclaim Argentina after a 3-0 win against nine-man Brazil sent them through to the Olympic final.
China may be a relatively untapped soccer market, but the 50,000 plus crowd knew that the best team had won on the night.
The Olympic soccer tournament does not cut much ice in Europe but it is taken much more seriously in South America. Brazil have won the World Cup five times, the Copa America eight and the Confederations Cup twice and their failure to add an Olympic gold to their collection rankles.
The podcast team reflect on insane Usain, Phelps fatigue and the most dangerous man at the Beijing Olympics.
I’m joined by Julian Linden, Belinda Goldsmith, Brian Homewood, Erik Kirschbaum and Neil Maidment to look at the dafter side of the Beijing Games.
Argentine journalists were startled to learn that their team would be playing a match against Siberia at the Olympic football tournament. At least, that is what the official translation said.
Coach Sergio Batista, speaking ahead of a game against Serbia, looked on it utter bewilderment as one interpreter attempted to translate his answers from Spanish into Chinese and another then tried to translate the Chinese version of his answer into English.
Argentina could yet pay a heavy price for the deal which has allowed Lionel Messi to play at the Olympic Games.
A lengthy tug-of-war with Barcelona for Messi’s services ended with the Court of Arbitration for Sport ruling that Barcelona were not obliged to release him for the Olympics.
News just out that the Court of Arbitration for Sport has ruled in favour of Barcelona and decided they will not have to release Argentine forward Lionel Messi for the Olympics.
Assuming Barcelona do not have a change of heart, it means one of the biggest-name athletes at the Games will not be taking part. Brazilians Diego and Rafinha, of Werder Bremen and Schalke 04, will now also presumably be going home.