CHICAGO (Wednesday, May 1, 2002) - The 1988 Olympics brought the first major international soccer tournament to Asia, and several stars of the 1990 and 1994 World Cups stepped into the international limelight to perform at one of the most memorable soccer tournaments in Olympic history.
After boycotts limited the tournament field in the 1980 and 1984 Summer Olympics, the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul, Korea, saw the return of a full-strength field to the Olympic Soccer Tournament.
One of the most high-profile teams to boycott the 1984 Games entered the 1988 Games with one of the most decorated histories in Olympic Soccer. The Soviet Union came to Seoul with four Olympic soccer medals, winning the gold medal in Melbourne 1956 and then earning three consecutive bronze medals (Munich 1972, Montreal 1976, Moscow 1980).
The U.S.S.R. posted a near-perfect 5-0-1 record en route to their second gold medal. The only blemish came in a scoreless draw with hosts South Korea in the opening round. The Soviets went on to blank Australia in the quarterfinals 3-0, top Italy 3-2 in the semis and then beat Brazil, 2-1 in overtime, for the gold medal.
The Brazilian team was led by a trio of players who would be at the heart of Brazil’s World Cup-winning side in 1994: strikers Romario and Bebeto and goalkeeper Claudio Taffarel. In USA ‘94, Romario scored five times and won the Gold Ball as the tournament’s outstanding player as Brazil won their fourth World Cup.
Romario gave Brazil, the only team to post three wins in the group stage, a temporary advantage in the final, scoring in the 29th minute. Igor Dobrovolski equalized with a penalty kick in the 63rd minute, and the score remained that way until extra-time, when substitute Yuri Savichev struck in the 103rd minute before 73,000 spectators in the Olympic Stadium.
In the semifinals Brazil topped Germany 3-2 in penalty kicks after playing 120 minutes to a 1-1 deadlock. In the other semifinal, the Soviets eked out a wild, 3-2 win with Italy after playing to a 1-1 time in regulation. Arminas Narbekovas (92nd minute) and Alexi Mikhailchenko (106th minute) struck in overtime for the Soviets before Germany’s Andrea Carnevale scored with two minutes remaining in the extra period.
The Olympic tournament produced a final between two of the pre-tournament favorites, but it also produced its share of surprises, no match more surprising than Zambia’s 4-0 pasting of Italy in the opening round. Kalusha Bwalya notched a hat trick in what is still considered one of the most impressive results from an African squad in a major international competition.
Zambia lost to the Germans in the quarterfinals, 4-0, as striker Juergen Klinsmann, a huge contributor to Germany’s World Cup championship in 1990, tallied a hat-trick. After losing to Brazil in the semis, the West Germans topped Italy 3-0 in the bronze medal match as Gerhard Kleppinger, Christian Schreier and Klinsmann scored.
The Americans, who were making their second straight appearance at the Summer Games, turned heads in the opening match of the Group C with a hard-fought 1-1 draw against Argentina at Taegu Stadium in Taegu.
The U.S. featured 14 players that would go on to be members of the 1990 World Cup Team in Italy, including the 1990 captain Mike Windischmann, who scored the lone goal for the U.S in the draw.
After playing South Korea to a scoreless tie at Pusan Stadium in Pusan, the Americans dropped a 4-2 decision to the eventual gold medallist U.S.S.R. at Taegu Stadium. Forward Brent Goulet and defender John Doyle notched the only goals in the loss for the U.S., who finished last in Group C.