At the first Olympics after the Great War, the former "central powers" (Germany, Austria,
Hungary) and their allies (Bulgaria, Turkey) were not invited. The English FA had withdrawn
from FIFA (together with the junior partners from Scotland, Ireland and Wales) after their
demand that the federations of Germany, Austria and Hungary be excluded had been rejected,
in spite of support from Belgium, France and Luxembourg. FIFA nevertheless accepted the
entry of a Great Britain football team, judging that countries entering the Olympic Games
in other sports should not be hindered entering the football tournament.
However, the gold medalists of the previous two Olympic football tournaments would not enjoy their participation long, as they were defeated 1-3 in the first round by Norway, who thus celebrated one of their iconic victories (to be followed by the elimination of Nazi Germany at the 1936 Berlin Olympics, the 1993 win over England in World Cup qualifying, and the 2-1 defeat of reigning world champions Brazil at the 1998 World Cup).
Denmark, twice silver medalists before the war, fared no better, losing 0-1 to Spain in the latter's first ever official international match, thanks to an outstanding young goalkeeper by the name of Zamora. It was the beginning of a curse that would hit the Danish Dynamite team of the eighties over and over again. That left the Netherlands and Sweden as the only other countries to have entered both pre-war olympic football tournaments, and they duly met for the third time, the Dutch winning an epic quarter-final match 5-4 after extra time on their way to a third consecutive bronze medal.
If that high-scoring match was a highlight, the final played four days later remains one of the great Olympic scandals. In a hostile environment (the Belgian press had poisoned the atmosphere by portraying Czechoslovakia as one of the aggressor states in the Great War, for no other reason than that the country had emerged from the Austro-Hungarian Doppelmonarchie), the Czechs (all players were based in Prague, playing for either Slavia, Sparta, or Viktoria Žižkov) felt the refereeing to be biased against them (they contested the first goal as they considered a foul had been made against their goalkeeper before the handball leading to the penalty award, and the second for an off-side position by Larnoe); when Steiner was sent off after he and Coppée (who wasn't sent off) had been fighting, they had had enough and walked off. The mayhem that followed (the Belgian crowd invaded the pitch, threatened the Czech players and tore up the Czechoslovak flag) showed that not inviting the real former war enemies had been a sensible decision, if perhaps not in the true olympic spirit.
Czechoslovakia were disqualified and barred from entering the (separate) tournament to determine the silver and bronze medalists. The set-up of the 1920 football tournament was a fairly complicated affair (see below) and is usually presented incorrectly. The first correct explanation in a "modern" source that the author is aware of is that by Martialay and De Salazar [MaS 97]; in addition, Buschmann and Lennarts [BuL] get it almost right (considerably improving on Kluge [Klu 97] but still erring in assuming that the friendly between Egypt and Yugoslavia was in some way part of the tournament); in contrast, the IFFHS [IFF 00] fabricated fairytales (possibly partially based on erroneous information in [Klu 97]).
The team sports events at the 1920 Olympic Games were not set up as straight knock-out
tournaments, but were to be played according to the so-called Bergvall system. The
consideration behind this system is that it is not fair that a team losing in an early
round to the eventual gold medalists is out of the race for the remaining medals; after
all, the draw could have paired the two strongest teams in the first round. The basic
format of the Bergvall system is that after all teams have played out the gold medalists
in a straight knock-out tournament, the teams beaten during the tournament by the gold
medalists play out the silver medalists in another knock-out tournament; after that, the
teams to have been beaten by the silver medalists in either of those two tournaments
enter a third and final knock-out tournament to determine the destination of the bronze
As an aside, Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (better known as Lewis Carroll) already addressed the same problem in 1883 in the context of lawn tennis [Dod 83] and suggested a truly sophisticated solution to assign the first three prizes fairly. His method is (like that of Bergvall) mathematically sound but (again like Bergvall) based on the assumption that the relative strength of the contestants is a transitive relation and remains constant from one day to another. Experience shows neither applies.
For the football tournament, it was decided to adapt the Bergvall system, so that the
silver medal tournament could start before the gold medal tournament was finished (which
is of course not possible in a strict application of the Bergvall system, which requires
(unlike Dodgson's proposed method) that the final be played before the entrants of the
silver medal tournament are known).
The actual set-up of the olympic football tournament was as follows: first, a normal knock-out tournament for the gold medal; meanwhile the losing quarter-finalists of the gold medal tournament played out the best among them over two rounds; the winners after those two rounds were then joined by all teams to have been beaten by the gold medalists (in the final, the semi-final and the first round) for the semi-finals of the tournament for silver and bronze medals (no separate bronze medal tournament was foreseen).
As final losers Czechoslovakia were disqualified from further participation following the scandal in the final and gold medalists Belgium had received a bye in the first round due to the non-arrival of Poland, only two teams (Spain as winners of the tournament among the losing quarter-finalists and the Netherlands as semi-final victims of Belgium) were left, and they played out the silver and bronze medals among them.
The Bergvall system was (more strictly) applied in the waterpolo and ice hockey team tournaments as well as in the Greek-Roman wrestling competition. Its disadvantages most clearly came to light in the ice hockey event (yes, these were Summer Olympics but there were no Winter Olympics at the time): one day after losing the gold medal final to Canada (by 1-12), Sweden were forced to play the United States in the silver medal tournament, losing again (by 0-7; the USA did deserve to finish second), and after defeating Switzerland (4-0) in the first round of the bronze medal tournament, they lost 0-1 to Czechoslovakia (beaten by the United States 0-16 in the final of the silver medal tournament) in the bronze medal tournament final. (One of the bronze medalists in the Czechoslovak ice hockey team was Karel "Káďa" Pešek, also the captain of their disqualified football side.) So, Sweden reached the final of the (gold medal) tournament but left the Olympics empty-handed after playing three more matches (apart from the final) in as many days. The format was never again applied in any Olympic football or ice hockey tournament, but still used in the waterpolo event at the 1924 Olympics in Paris (to the advantage of the United States, who had lost in the first round to eventual winners France but nevertheless returned home with bronze) and in a modified form (the final losers in the gold medal tournament won silver, but a separate tournament for determining the bronze medalists was held) in 1928 in Amsterdam.
GOLD MEDAL TOURNAMENT Gold Medal Tournament - First Round: 28 August 1920 - Stadion Royal Antwerp FC (Broodstraat), Antwerpen - Att: 600 Ref: Raphaël Van Praag (Bel) CZECHOSLOVAKIA 7 (Vaník 20, 46, 79pen, Janda 34, 50, 75, Sedláček I 43) YUGOSLAVIA 0 HT: 3-0 Czechoslovakia: Klapka - A. Hojer, Pospišil - Kolenatý, "Káďa" (cap), Perner - Sedláček I, Janda, Pilát, Vaník, Mazal. Yugoslavia: Vrđuka - Župančić, Šifer - Tavćar, Cindrić, Rupec - Vragović, Dubravčić (cap), Perška, Granec, Ružić. NB: Rupec withdrew injured after 13 minutes. 28 August 1920 - Olympisch Stadion, Antwerpen - Att: 5,000 (double-header with Sweden-Greece) Ref: Johannes "Job" Mutters (Net) NORWAY 3 (Gundersen 13, 51, Wilhelms 63) GREAT BRITAIN 1 (Nicholas 25) HT: 1-1 Norway: Wathne - Aulie, Skou - Wold, Halvorsen, G. Andersen (cap) - Paulsen, Wilhelms, Helgesen, Gundersen, Holm. GB: Mitchell - Gates, Knight (cap) - Hunt, Atkinson, Harbridge - Nicholas, Harding, Prince, Sloley, Hegan. NB: other sources list Payne instead of Gates and Bunyan jr. instead of Harding. 28 August 1920 - Stade AA La Gantoise, Gent - Att. 2,000 Ref: Paul Putz (Bel) ITALY 2 (Baloncieri 25, Brezzi 57) EGYPT 1 (Allouba 30) HT: 1-0 Italy: Giacone - Bruna, De Vecchi (cap) - Reynaudi, Meneghetti, Lovati - Sardi, Baloncieri, Brezzi, Santamaria, Forlivesi. Egypt: Taha - El-Sayed, Hamdi - Shawki, Ali El-Hassani, Gamil Othman - Tawfik Abdullah, Allouba, Hegazi (cap), Abaza, Zaki Othman. 28 August 1920 - Stade Joseph Marien - Bruxelles - Att: 3,000 (double-header with Netherlands-Luxembourg) Ref: Willem Eĳmers (Net) SPAIN 1 ("Patricio" 54) DENMARK 0 HT: 0-0 Spain: Zamora - Otero, Arrate - Samitier, "Belauste" (cap), Eguiazábal - "Pagaza", Sesúmaga, "Patricio", "Pichichi", Gómez-Acedo. Denmark: Sophus Hansen - N. Middleboe, Blicher - Grøthan, Lykke (cap), Aaby - Dannin, Rohde, Viggo Jørgensen, Alf Olsen, B. Andersen. 28 August l920 - Olympisch Stadion, Antwerpen - Att: 5,000 (double-header with Norway-Great Britain) Ref: Charles Barette (Bel) SWEDEN 9 (Olsson 4, 79, Carlsson 15, 20, 21, 51, 85, Wicksell 25, Dahl 31) GREECE 0 HT: 6-0; missed penalty: Carlsson (Swe, 70) Sweden: Zander - Lund, Hillén - Nordenskjöld (cap), Wicksell, Gustafsson - Bergström, Olsson, Carlsson, Dahl, Sandberg. Greece: Fotiadis - Gilis, Kaloudis - Gotis, A. Nikolaidis, Pepas - Kalafatis (cap), I. Andrianopoulos, T. Nikolaidis, Hatziandreou, Dimitriou. NB: Kaloudis withdrew injured. 28 August 1920 - Stade Joseph Marien - Bruxelles - Att: 3,000 (double-header with Spain-Denmark) Ref: Georges Hubrecht (Bel) NETHERLANDS 3 (J. Bulder 30, Groosjohan 47, 85) LUXEMBOURG 0 HT: 1-0 Netherlands: MacNeill - Dénis, Verweĳ - Bosschart (cap), Kuipers, Steeman - Van Rappard, Van Dort, Groosjohan, J. Bulder, De Natris. Luxembourg: Krüger - Schmit (cap), Koetz - Hamilius, Ungeheuer, Schumacher - Metzler, Langers, Elter, Massard, Leesch. FRANCE walkover against Switzerland (late withdrawal). BELGIUM walkover against Poland (no show). Gold Medal Tournament - Quarter-Finals: 29 August 1920 - Stadion Royal Antwerp FC (Broodstraat), Antwerpen - Att: 5,000 Ref: Josef Fanta (Cze) NETHERLANDS 5 (Groosjohan 10, 57, J. Bulder 44, 88pen, De Natris 115) SWEDEN 4 (Carlsson 16, 32, Olsson 20, Dahl 72) AET; FT: 4-4, HT: 2-3; missed penalty: Carlsson (Swe, 70) Netherlands: MacNeill - Dénis, Verweĳ - Bosschart (cap), Kuipers, Steeman - Van Rappard, Bieshaar, Groosjohan, J. Bulder, De Natris. Sweden: Zander - Lund, Hillén - Öijermark, Wicksell (cap), Gustafsson - Bergström, Olsson, Carlsson, Dahl, Sandberg. 29 August 1920 - Olympisch Stadion, Antwerpen - Att: 10,000 Ref: Henri Christophe (Bel) FRANCE 3 (Boyer 10, P. Nicolas 14, Bard 54) ITALY 1 (Brezzi 33pen) HT: 2-1 France: Parsys - Huot, Baumann - Batmale, Petit, Hugues - Dewaquez, Boyer, P. Nicolas, Bard (cap), Dubly. Italy: Giacone - Bruna, De Vecchi (cap) - Sardi, Meneghetti, Lovati - P. Ferraris, Baloncieri, Brezzi, Santamaria, Marucco. 29 August 1920 - Stade Joseph Marien - Bruxelles - Att: 4,000 Ref: Charles Barette (Bel) CZECHOSLOVAKIA 4 (Vaník 8, Janda 17, 66, 77) NORWAY 0 HT: 2-0 Czechoslovakia: Klapka - A. Hojer, Steiner - Kolenatý, "Káďa" (cap), Seifert - Sedláček I, Janda, Pilát, Vaník, Mazal. Norway: Wathne - Aulie, Skou - Wold, Halvorsen, G. Andersen (cap) - Paulsen, Aas, Helgesen, Gundersen, Holm. 29 August 1920 - Olympisch Stadion, Antwerpen - Att: 18,000 Ref: Johannes "Job" Mutters (Net) BELGIUM 3 (Coppée 11, 52, 55) SPAIN 1 (Arrate 62pen) HT: 1-0 Belgium: De Bie - Swartenbroeks, Verbeeck - Musch, Hanse, Fierens - Van Hege, Coppée, Balyu, Nizot (cap), Hebdin. Spain: Zamora - Vallana, Arrate (cap) - Artola, Sancho, Eguiazábal - "Pagaza", "Pichichi", "Patricio", J. Vázquez, Gómez-Acedo. Gold Medal Tournament - Semi-Finals: 31 August 1920 - Olympisch Stadion, Antwerpen - Att: 12,000 Ref: Johannes "Job" Mutters (Net) CZECHOSLOVAKIA 4 (Mazal 18, 75, 87, Steiner 70) FRANCE 1 (Boyer 79) HT: 1-0 Czechoslovakia: Klapka - A. Hojer, Steiner - Kolenatý, "Káďa" (cap), Seifert - Sedláček I, Janda, Vaník, Mazal, Plaček. France: Parsys - Huot, Baumann - Batmale, Petit, Hugues - Dewaquez, Boyer, P. Nicolas, Bard (cap), Dubly. NB: Mutters dismissed Czechoslovak linesman Raca for blatantly incorrect off-side calls; he was replaced by a Belgian. Note that apart from the final and the semi-final between Belgium and the Netherlands, which were both handled by three Englishmen, the linesmen were provided by the two countries playing the match. 31 August 1920 - Olympisch Stadion, Antwerpen - Att: 22,000 Ref: John Lewis (Eng) BELGIUM 3 (Larnoe 46, Van Hege 55, Bragard 85) NETHERLANDS 0 HT: 0-0 Belgium: De Bie - Swartenbroeks, Verbeeck - Musch, Hanse (cap), Fierens - Van Hege, Coppée, Bragard, Larnoe, Bastin. Netherlands: MacNeill - Dénis, Verweĳ - Bosschart (cap), Kuipers, Steeman - Van Rappard, Bieshaar, Groosjohan, J. Bulder, De Natris. GOLD MEDAL TOURNAMENT - FINAL: 2 September 1920 - Olympisch Stadion, Antwerpen - Att: 35,000 Ref: John Lewis (Eng) BELGIUM 2 (Coppée 6pen, Larnoe 30) CZECHOSLOVAKIA 0 NB: Match abandoned after 39 minutes; Czechoslovakia left the pitch in protest to perceived biased refereeing and were disqualified from the tournament. Belgium: De Bie - Swartenbroeks, Verbeeck - Musch, Hanse (cap), Fierens - Van Hege, Coppée, Bragard, Larnoe, Bastin. Czechoslovakia: Klapka - A. Hojer, Steiner - Kolenatý, "Káďa" (cap), Seifert - Sedláček I, Janda, Pilát, Vaník, Mazal. Sent off: Steiner (39). SILVER AND BRONZE MEDALS TOURNAMENT Silver and Bronze Medals Tournament - First Round: NB: this involved the quarter-final losers of the gold medal tournament. 31 August 1920 - Stadion Royal Antwerp FC (Broodstraat), Antwerpen - Att: 500 Ref: Louis Fourgeous (Fra) NORWAY 1 (A. Andersen 41) ITALY 2 (Sardi 46, Badini II 123) A2ET; AET: 1-1, FT: 1-1, HT: 1-0 NB: after 2x15 minutes extra time the match was still drawn, so an additional second extra time of 2x10 minutes was played; total duration of the match thus 140 minutes. Norway: Wathne - Aulie, Johnsen - Mohn, Halvorsen, G. Andersen (cap) - Paulsen, A. Andersen, Helgesen, Thorstvedt, Holm. Italy: Campelli (cap) - Rosetta, Bruna - Reynaudi, Parodi, Burlando - Roggero, Sardi, P. Ferraris, Badini II, Forlivesi. 1 September 1920 - Stadion Royal Antwerp FC (Broodstraat), Antwerpen - Att: 1,500 Ref: Giovanni Mauro (Ita) SPAIN 2 ("Belauste" 51, Gómez-Acedo 53) SWEDEN 1 (Dahl 28) HT: 0-1; missed penalty: Wicksell (Swe, 65) Spain: Zamora - Vallana, Arrate - Samitier, "Belauste" (cap), Sabino - "Pagaza", Sesúmaga, "Patricio", "Pichichi", Gómez-Acedo. Sweden: Zander - Lund, Nordenskjöld (cap) - Öijermark, Wicksell, Gustafsson - Bergström, Olsson, Carlsson, Dahl, Sandberg. NB: Olsson broke his collarbone after 75 minutes; several other players were injured so that at the end of the match (or rather battle), reportedly only 15 of the 22 players were still physically capable of playing football. Silver and Bronze Medals Tournament - Second Round: 2 September 1920 - Olympisch Stadion, Antwerpen - Att: 10,000 (played before gold medal final) Ref: Paul Putz (Bel) ITALY 0 SPAIN 2 (Sesúmaga 43, 72) HT: 0-1 Italy: Campelli - Bruna, De Vecchi (cap) - Parodi, Meneghetti, De Nardo - De Marchi, Baloncieri, Brezzi, Badini II, Marucco. Spain: Zamora - Vallana (cap), Otero - Artola, Sancho, "Sabino" - "Moncho" Gil, "Pagaza", Sesúmaga, "Pichichi", "Silverio". Sent off: Zamora (79). NB: "Pagaza" withdrew injured after 35 minutes. Silver and Bronze Medals Tournament - Third Round: NB: between second round winners (i.e. Spain, as the "best quarter-final losers") and the teams to have lost against gold medalists Belgium in the final, the semi-finals and the first round of the gold medal tournament; however, as final losers Czechoslovakia were disqualified and Belgium had received a first round bye due to the non-arrival of Poland, only the Netherlands (as semi-final losers against Belgium) were entitled to join Spain in the tournament. Note that the team to have lost the semi-final against the losers of the final of the gold medal tournament (i.e. France) was not supposed to be part of the tournament for silver and bronze medals (as illogical as that is). Sources claiming that Spain were to play Egypt (as winners of a supposed tournament between the first round losers, see below) or that the Netherlands were to play France (who allegedly could not play because their players had left already - a rather fanciful explanation, as France is not particularly far away from Belgium) are wrong. Spain w/o Czechoslovakia [Czechoslovakia disqualified] Netherlands w/o Poland [Poland failed to arrive] Silver and Bronze Medals Tournament - Final: 5 September 1920 - Olympisch Stadion, Antwerpen - Att: 4,000 Ref: Paul Putz (Bel) SPAIN 3 (Sesúmaga 7, 35, "Pichichi" 72) NETHERLANDS 1 (Groosjohan 68) HT: 2-0 Spain: Zamora - Vallana, Arrate - Samitier, "Belauste" (cap), Eguiazábal - "Moncho" Gil, Sesúmaga, "Patricio", "Pichichi", Gómez-Acedo. Netherlands: MacNeill - Dénis, Verweĳ - Bosschart (cap), Kuipers, Steeman - Van Rappard, Van Dort, Groosjohan, Von Heyden, E. Bulder. FRIENDLY NB: the below match is often listed as one belonging to a "consolation tournament" but such a tournament was not foreseen in the set-up of the official tournament and the actual status of this match is that of a friendly (as reported by Antwerp newspapers at the time [BuL]). None of the other first round losers entered this fictitious consolation tournament; only the team that had lost in the first round to the later gold medalists was eligible to enter the tournament for the silver and bronze medals (but as that was Poland, who failed to show for their first round encounter against Belgium, that did not happen). A clear additional indication that this was a friendly and not an official olympic match is the fact that Yugoslavia were allowed a substitution; that was not possible in the tournament. Also note that the date often given for this match (2 September) is incorrect; it was played the day after the final of the gold medal tournament. 3 September 1920 - Olympisch Stadion, Antwerpen - Att: 100 Ref: Raphaël Van Praag (Bel) EGYPT 4 (Allouba 1-0, Hegazi 2-0, Abaza 3-2, 4-2) YUGOSLAVIA 2 (Dubravčić 2-1, Ružić 2-2) HT: 2-1 Egypt: Taha - El-Sayed, Hamdi - Shawki, Ali El-Hassani, Gamil Othman - Tawfik Abdullah, Allouba, Hegazi (cap), Abaza, Zaki Othman. Yugoslavia: Vrđuka - Porobić, Šifer - Tavćar, Rupec, Vragović - Šolc, Simić, Dubravčić (cap), Perška (46 Kojić), Ružić.
Rk Country P W T L F A Pts GAvg 1 BELGIUM 3 3 0 0 8- 1 6 8.00 2 Spain 5 4 0 1 9- 5 8 1.80 3 Netherlands 4 2 0 2 9-10 4 0.90 4 France 2 1 0 1 4- 5 2 0.80 5 Italy 4 2 0 2 5- 7 4 0.71 6 Sweden 3 1 0 2 14- 7 2 2.00 Norway 3 1 0 2 4- 7 2 0.57 8 Egypt 1 0 0 1 1- 2 0 0.50 Great Britain 1 0 0 1 1- 3 0 0.00 Denmark 1 0 0 1 0- 1 0 0.00 Luxembourg 1 0 0 1 0- 3 0 0.00 Yugoslavia 1 0 0 1 0- 7 0 0.00 Greece 1 0 0 1 0- 9 0 0.00 * Czechoslovakia 4 3 0 1 15- 3 6 5.00 * Czechoslovakia were disqualified after their walk-off in the final. NB: records do not include the Egypt vs Yugoslavia match which was a mere friendly; after the medalists, teams are only ranked by the round in which they were eliminated.
7 Carlsson (Swe) 6 Janda (Cze) 5 Groosjohan (Net) 4 Coppée (Bel) Sesúmaga (Spa) Vaník (Cze) 3 J. Bulder (Net) Dahl (Swe) Mazal (Cze) Olsson (Swe)
overview file 1920
Sources included: [BuL (Band 3)], [Dod 83], [IFF 00 (Band 1)], [Klu 97], [MaS 97], Linguasport, wikipedia.
Thanks to Khaled Abul-Oyoun and Giampaolo Testero for corrections and to Macario Reyes (firstname.lastname@example.org) for an earlier version of this file.
Prepared and maintained by Karel Stokkermans for the Rec.Sport.Soccer Statistics Foundation
Author: Karel Stokkermans (email@example.com)
Last updated: 5 Nov 2015
(C) Copyright Karel Stokkermans and RSSSF 1999/2015
You are free to copy this document in whole or part provided that proper acknowledgement is given to the author. All rights reserved.