The men’s Olympic football tournament is limited to players under 23 years of age, although teams are allowed to beef up their rosters with three players over 23. In the last Olympic football tournament in Beijing, Argentina captured the gold by beating Nigeria in a thrilling final, winning 1-0 on a goal by Angel Di Maria in the 58th minute. Di Maria’s strike was set up by an assist from a 21-year-old forward named Lionel Messi, now one of the sport’s biggest international stars.
Argentina and Nigeria both topped their respective groups to advance to the quarterfinals, the South Americans earning the full nine points in Group A while the Africans garnering seven points on two wins and a draw. In the quarterfinals, Nigeria ousted fellow African nation Cote D’Ivoire, 2-0, scoring in the 44th and 82nd minutes. Argentina, meanwhile, needed extra time to dispose of the Netherlands. Messi put his side ahead in the 14th minute, before Otman Bakkal equalized in the 36th. The match headed into an extra 30 minutes, where Di Maria scored the marginal goal in the 105th minute to send Argentina through to the semifinals.
In the last four, Nigeria routed Belgium, 4-1, while Argentina blanked rival Brazil, 3-0, to set up their gold medal match, where Di Maria and Messi teamed up to secure their country’s second straight Olympic gold in the event.
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