At London 2012, both the men’s and women’s Football competitions begin with a preliminary stage: the 16 men’s and 12 women’s teams are divided into groups of four teams (four groups in the men’s and three groups in the women’s competition), and each team plays every other in their group. Teams receive three points for a win, one point for a draw and nothing for a loss.
The best eight teams in both the men’s and the women’s competition qualify for the quarter-finals. In the men’s competition these are the top two teams from each of the four groups. In the women’s competition the top two teams from each of the three groups go through to the knockout stage, along with the two best third-placed teams.
In the knockout matches the winners of the semi-finals go head-to-head in the gold medal match and the losing semi-finalists play for the bronze medal.
In the knockout stages only, ties are resolved by two 15-minute periods of extra time, followed if necessary by a penalty shootout of five shots per team. If the scores are still tied, the match will be decided by sudden-death penalties.
For a complete set of rules, please refer to the website of the International Federation of Association Football (FIFA), the governing body for the sport.
Find out more about the Men's Football and Women's Football competitions at the Olympic Games on the International Olympic Committee website.