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London 2012 Olympics qualifying: Football

Wembley Stadium

East Midlands MP campaigns for GB team

How qualification works:

JUNE 2011
Men's U-21 European Championships in Denmark
JULY 2011
Women's World Cup in Germany

The Olympic football tournament a complicated beast. While the Olympics welcomes women's senior national sides, countries must submit a men's team comprised of an under-23 side in which three older players may be included.

The qualification system varies by continent and world governing body Fifa has yet to publish full qualifying documentation, but the broad outline is in place.

Taking the more complex men's tournament first, the European qualifier for 2012 will be the U-21 European Championships of 2011, to be staged in Denmark in June.

Similarly, the 2011 Sudamericano Sub-20 - a competition for U-20 sides, held in Peru in January and February - decides qualifiers from South America.

Three European sides (plus hosts Britain, see below) and two South American teams qualify in this fashion.

The process elsewhere will involve bespoke tournaments, expected to be held in early 2012, to determine who goes through to the Olympic Games.

Asia and Africa will both supply three teams, plus an extra team from a play-off between the fourth-ranked teams of each.

Oceania provides one team, and two teams from North and Central America complete the 16-team tournament.

Women's qualification does not rely on youth tournaments, so the senior 2011 Women's World Cup will be used by Uefa to assign European qualification places for the 12-team women's event.

The top two European sides from the World Cup, being held in Germany in July, go through to the Olympic competition.

Other continents are not expected to rely on the World Cup for qualification, with South America earmarking the 2010 South American Women's Championships (Sudamericano Femenino) to supply its two Olympic contenders: Brazil and Colombia.

Once more, the remaining continental associations are set to organise one-off tournaments to decide their Olympic qualifiers, with specific details yet to be announced.

Asia and Africa each have two berths at the Games to fill, North and Central America will send two teams from a qualifying event planned for Canada in 2012, and Oceania supplies a final team alongside hosts Britain.

How are British competitors doing?

Wembley Stadium
Wembley Stadium will host Olympic football in 2012

British entry into the Olympic football competition has long been a source of confusion and rancour.

The UK's four constituent footballing nations - England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales - compete as separate entities in every other tournament, with clearly (sometimes fiercely) defined national footballing identities.

Aside from administrative obstacles (such as Great Britain not being a recognised member of Fifa), proposals to combine the four into a British Olympic football team have, consequently, met considerable hurdles.

There has been no British football team at the Olympics since 1960, where GB were knocked out at the group stage, behind Brazil and Italy.

However, the prospect of allowing a home Olympic Games in the 21st Century to come and go without a British team taking part has seen renewed efforts to bring a squad together for 2012, particularly with host berths in the offing.

Not that fans may necessarily be content with the current plan, which is to field an England team rebadged as Great Britain in both the men's and women's competitions.

At the last London Games in 1948, an amateur men's team managed by Sir Matt Busby narrowly missed out on a bronze medal. They were defeated 5-3 by Denmark in the third-place play-off.

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see also
Olympic football keeps U-23 rule
05 Dec 09 |  Olympics
GB 'will enter Olympic football'
10 Mar 09 |  Olympics

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