We now know who will be in the final eight of men’s soccer of the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo in 2021. On Wednesday, the Group stage came to a conclusion. The quarterfinal matches have Japan versus New Zealand, Spain versus Ivory Coast, South Korea versus Mexico, and Brazil versus Egypt.
The big story from the Group stage is who is not in the quarterfinals. Soccer giant superpowers Germany and Argentina are not in the knockout stage. Germany was third in Group D, behind Brazil and the Ivory Coast. Meanwhile, Egypt got by Argentina in Group C. The fact that two African nations were able to advance to the quarterfinals strengthens soccer as a global game.
In a remarkable statistic, an African nation has qualified for the quarterfinals in men’s soccer at every Olympic Games since 1980. At the 1980 Olympic Games in Moscow, Algeria reached the quarterfinals before losing 3-0 to Yugoslavia. At the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles, Egypt reached the quarterfinals before losing to France 2-0. At the 1988 Olympic Games in Seoul,Zambia reached the quarterfinals before losing 4-0 to West Germany.
At the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona, Ghana won the Olympic bronze medal. After winning Group D with a record of one win and two draws, they defeated Paraguay 4-2 in the quarterfinals before losing 2-0 to Spain in the semifinals, and then beating Australia 1-0 in the bronze medal game.
At the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta, Nigeria became the first African nation to win an Olympic gold medal in soccer. They defeated Argentina 3-2 in the gold medal game. Ghana also reached the quarterfinals at the Olympic Games in Atlanta before losing 4-2 to Brazil.
At the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, Cameroon was the second straight African nation to win Olympic gold in men’s soccer. They defeated Spain 5-3 on penalty kicks after entering penalties tied at two goals apiece. Nigeria also reached the quarterfinals, but lost 4-1 to Chile.
At the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, Mali won Group A, but then lost 1-0 to Italy in the quarterfinals. At the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, Nigeria, Ivory Coast and Cameroon all reached the quarterfinals. Nigeria won the silver medal after beating Ivory Coast 2-0 in the quarterfinals and Belgium 4-1 in the semifinals, before losing 1-0 to Argentina in the gold medal game. Cameroon meanwhile lost 2-0 to Brazil in the quarterfinals.
At the 2012 Olympic Games in London, once again multiple African nations reached the quarterfinals. This time Senegal lost 4-2 to Mexico and Egypt lost 3-0 to Japan. Then at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Nigeria won the Olympic bronze medal after beating Honduras 3-2 in the bronze medal game. They beat Denmark 2-0 in the quarterfinals before losing 2-0 to Germany in the semifinals.