Ten stars to emerge from the Olympics
Posted: 31 July 2012 Time: 1:51 pm
In a group containing hosts Team GB and Oscar Tabarez's Uruguay, you would not have found many people backing Senegal to be in the hunt for medals at the 2012 London Olympics.
But thanks to the stand-out performances of teenage forward Moussa Konate, who represents Israel's Maccabi Tel Aviv, the Teranga Lions have genuine hope of standing proud on the podium.
Is Konate about to join the likes of Michel Platini, Oleg Blokhin, Hernan Crespo and Sandor Kocsis on the list of top-class players to have cut their teeth at the Games?
Below, Goal.com looks at 10 of the finest footballers to have made a name for themselves at the prestigious event.
1948 - GUNNAR NORDAHL
Gunnar Gren, Gunnar Nordahl and Nils Liedholm – better known as Gre-No-Li – led Sweden to their only Olympic title with some fine attacking play in 1948.
Nordahl finished joint top scorer in London with seven goals – including one in the Final to add to Gren's double as Blagult beat Yugoslavia 3-1 – and earned himself a move to AC Milan as a result. A year later, he was joined by the other two, and the trio led the Rossoneri to the title in 1950/51.
With 225 goals in 291 games, Nordahl remains the Italian League's second highest scorer, and also holds the post-war record for number of goals in a single season after notching 35 in the aforementioned title-winning campaign.
1948 - JOHN HANSEN
The other man to share the top-scorer award with Nordahl was John Hansen, who helped to fire the Danes to a bronze medal with seven goals.
Still in the amateur days, he scored twice against Great Britain – coached by former Manchester United boss Sir Matt Busby – to secure a third-placed finish for his country, and had earlier hit four in a 5-3 win over Italy.
The Italians sat up and took notice, and he was signed up by Juventus on the back of his stellar performances. Now a professional, his days with Denmark were over, but he scored an incredible 124 goals in 187 games for the Old Lady.
1952 – SANDOR KOCSIS
The Magnificent Magyars may have taken English football by surprise in 1953, but nobody could say the warning signs were not there. A year earlier, Hungary stormed to the gold medal in Helsinki with some of the most scintillating football ever seen at the Olympics.
In just five games, 22-year-old Sandor Kocsis hit six of his side's 20 goals as the likes of Italy, Turkey and the much-fancied Swedes were thrashed.
Of course, he did not act alone. Ferenc Puskas, Nandor Hidegkuti, Zoltan Czibor and Peter Palotas were all alongside him as one of the most revolutionary teams in the history of the game swept all comers aside.
Kocsis went on to score a ridiculous 153 goals in 145 games for Honved before moving to Barcelona in 1958, where he won two league titles
1972 – OLEG BLOKHIN
Three years into his fledgling Dynamo Kiev career, Oleg Blokhin smashed five goals as the Soviet Union shared the bronze medals with East Germany in Munich.
He went from strength to strength after the Games and won the Ballon d'Or in 1975, becoming the second Soviet and first Ukrainian to be awarded the gong.
He was regarded as one of the finest strikers in world football throughout the 1970s, but was restricted to playing in Kiev by the communist regime. In 1988 and at the age of 36, he became one of the first Soviet players to play abroad when he moved to Vorwarts Steyr in Austria.
1972 – FALCAO
One of the finest midfielders of all time, Falcao was only 18 when he turned out three times for Brazil in Munich. It was a disastrous campaign for the Selecao, who finished bottom of their group, below Iran.
He swiftly broke into the Internacional first team and helped the Porto Alegre club to three national championships in 1975, 1976 and 1979. He moved to Roma in 1980, and after two impressive seasons in the Italian capital he was called up to the famous Brazil squad for the 1982 World Cup.
Alongside Toninho Cerezo, Zico, Eder and Socrates, Falcao made up one of the most impressive midfields in one of the most impressive football teams ever to have graced a pitch. He went on to coach Internacional, Brazil and Japan.
1976 – MICHEL PLATINI
Platini made his debut for Nancy at the age of 17, but remained an amateur until bursting onto the scene in 1976, when he scored three goals for France in Montreal.
He hit a double against Guatemala and a late penalty against Israel as Les Bleus topped their group, but he could do nothing as East Germany dumped them out at the quarter-final stage. Personally, however, Platini's stock had risen, and he was soon handed his first professional deal by Les Chardons.
After some initial troubles with the senior French national side, he hit an incredible peak in the mid-1980s, winning three consecutive European Footballer of the Year awards between 1983 and 1985, and scored a European Championship record nine goals as Les Bleus triumphed in 1984.
1988 – ROMARIO
Following a superb haul of seven goals in six games as Brazil won silver at the Seoul Games, Romario embarked on a magnificent career.
Alongside Bebeto and Mazinho, who he would later celebrate with at the successful 1994 World Cup conquest, the 22-year-old Vasco da Gama forward opened the scoring in the final, even if it was not enough to deter the Soviet Union. But his mark was made and he was quickly snapped up by PSV, before moving to Barcelona to make up part of the 'Dream Team'.
He then embarked on some sort of Samba version of the hoky cokey by moving from Flamengo to Valencia, going back to Flamengo and then back to Valencia.
After that, he returned to Vasco, then Fluminense, then Al-Sadd for a while, then back to Flu, and then back to Vasco! He did not stop there, and in 2007 he scored his 1000th goal in his fourth spell at Vasco.
1988 – KALUSHA BWALYA
Perhaps the most obscure of all breakthroughs, Zambia legend Kalusha Bwalya rose to prominence by netting six times in Seoul as Zambia topped Group B.
They were eventually knocked out by East Germany, but his hat-trick against Italy in a 4-0 win grabbed the attention of the watching world, and he was named African Footballer of the Year by France Football later that year.
Playing for Cercle Brugge, where he was twice voted the club's Player of the Year, he followed Romario to PSV in 1989. He won two league titles in Eindhoven before moving to Club America in Mexico, during which time he was nominated for the 1996 Fifa World Player of the Year award. He finished 12th, one place above Manchester United's Eric Cantona.
1992 – SAMUEL KUFFOUR
During his time with the Torino youth team, Sammy Kuffour became the youngest ever footballer to win an Olympic medal when he bagged bronze with Ghana in 1992 at the age of just 15.
The Black Stars defeated Australia at Camp Nou to set the youngster well on the road to a fine career.
His most famous moment at Barcelona's iconic stadium, however, came seven years later. Well into a successful 12-year spell with Bayern Munich, who signed him on the back of his Olympic triumph, he was seen beating the ground in despair after Manchester United scored two goals in stoppage time to snatch the 1999 Champions League Final.
He won 17 major titles with die Roten, but will be forever remembered for that night in Barcelona.
1996 – HERNAN CRESPO
Argentina have always taken the Olympics seriously, and can boast a list of world-class players who have represented the nation at the Games. But one of their most impressive performers was Hernan Crespo, who fired La Albiceleste to a silver medal in Atlanta.
After joint top-scoring with six goals, Parma promptly whisked him away from boyhood club River Plate, who he had already helped to win the Copa Libertadores.
After a slow start with the Gialloblu, he helped the club win the Uefa Cup in 1999, before being signed by Lazio for a then world record deal worth £35 million. With financial difficulties in Rome, Inter splashed out €26m for their Ronaldo replacement, before Chelsea paid over €25m for his services. He returned to Inter in 2006 and claimed three Scudetti, before retiring at Parma in February 2012.