Gold medallists bid for World Cup glory in Russia

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It’s arguably the most elusive combination in football: Olympic champions and World Cup winners.

This rare golden double has been achieved just once.

You have to go back to 1930 to find players who have won Olympic gold and lifted the World Cup.

The victorious Uruguay squad at that very first World Cup featured 12 gold medallists from Amsterdam 1928.

Uruguay’s victorious 1930 World Cup team. (Credit: HULTON PICTURE LIBRARY/ALLSPORT)

Now 18 players from three nations have a chance of repeating that feat in Moscow on Sunday 15 July. Here’s their story so far:

Athens 2004 – Argentina

A first-half winner from Carlos Tevez was enough for Argentina to secure the gold against Paraguay.

Javier Mascherano played for Argentina that day with current Chelsea goalkeeper Willy Caballero on the bench.

Some 14 years after that Athens final, both veterans form part of Jorge Sampaoli’s 23-man Argentina squad for Russia.

Beijing 2008 – Argentina

A second gold for Argentina and for Mascherano, who became the first man in 40 years to win two Olympic football titles.

One goal was again sufficient in the final with Angel Di Maria’s exquisite chip accounting for Nigeria at a packed Bird’s Nest stadium.

Along with Mascherano and Di Maria, three other players from that team ten years ago boarded the plane to Russia.

They are Ever Banega, Sergio Aguero and a certain Lionel Messi, who still ranks it as his all time career highlight.

London 2012 – Mexico

Mexico upstaged the big names to take their first Olympic football crown.

Their hero was Oribe Peralta who scored both goals in their 2-1 final triumph against Brazil.

Giovani dos Santos was another star of the campaign and both men are in Juan Carlos Osorio’s 23-man World Cup roster.

Raul Jimenez, Javier Aquino, Jesus Corona, Hector Herrera and Marco Fabian are the other five Wembley heroes who are present in Russia.

Rio 2016 – Brazil

A nation stopped for Brazil’s Olympic final against Germany.

The hosts had been runners-up at Los Angeles 1984, Seoul 1988 and London 2012.

And it was joy in the Maracana as Neymar scored in the penalty shoot-out to secure a long-awaited gold medal.

Four players from the Rio final are Russia-bound with Brazil among the favourites.

As well as Neymar, striker Gabriel Jesus, Renato Agusto and Marquinhos are bidding to join 12 Uruguayans in sporting history.

Near misses

Three countries have come close to emulating Uruguay’s golden double.

Sweden won at the 1948 London Olympics with Nils Liedholm one of their key players.

Ten years later, Liedholm skippered the Swedes to the World Cup Final on home soil but Brazil, including a young Pele, ran out 5-2 winners.

Ferenc Puskas and Hungary claimed Olympic gold in 1952 in Helsinki in the midst of their dominance of world football.

Puskas leads out Hungary against England

But the World Cup eluded the Mighty Magyars.

They took a five-year unbeaten record into the final of 1954.

But Helmut Rahn’s late goal saw West Germany pull off a shock win which became known as ‘The Miracle of Bern’.

Finally, Argentina were denied in 2014.

Lionel Messi led them to the final but Mario Goetze‘s goal in extra time saw Germany take the trophy.

Messi, Mascherano and co get another chance this year.

While Italy won the 1934 and 1938 World Cup either side of gold at the 1936 Berlin Games, there was no overlap between the squads.

This was down to professional players being barred from the Olympics in response to the World Cup’s inception in 1930.

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