KEIR RADNEDGE REPORTING —- Brazil finally found their goal touch as they beat Denmark 4-0 in their Group A showdown in the men’s Olympic Games football tournament.
Gabriel Barbosa (two), Gabriel Jesus and Luan popped up, like badly-delayed guardian angels to strike the goals which lifted the hosts top of the table and in to a quarter-final against Colombia in Sao Paulo on Saturday.
Brazil, Olympic hosts with a burning ambition to win the one major prize to have eluded their footballers, had been stifled and crushed by the weight of expectation in their opening goalless draws against South Africa and Iraq. But once they had broken their own fear factor in the middle of the first half, they finally began to relax.
Coach Rogerio Micale’s team, with minimal meaningful preparation and virtually making it up as they go along, began to play with a little more relaxation amid the relief of ending more than 200 minutes without a goal. Victory was essential to see Brazil through.
Rivals knocked out
Now they will fancy their chances of going all the way in the knowledge that two of their most awkward potential rivals – defending goal medallists Mexico and the 2004 and 2008 champions Argentina – had both been knocked out hours earlier.
No player appeared more relieved than Brazil captain Neymar who was enabled to ese into more of a team player role after appearing weighed down previously by the expectation that he could work the essential golden miracle all on his own.
Gabriel Barbosa – known as Gabigol – grabbed a goal either side of half-time, sandwiching efforts from Gabriel Jesus and Luan. Consolation for Denmark was to progress to the last eight as well courtesy of the other group game ending in a 1-1 draw between South Africa and Iraq.
Micale decided to keep faith with his attacking trio of Gabriel Barbosa, Gabriel Jesus and Neymar and ws rewarded in the 26th minute when Gabigol broke the deadlock after good work on the left by Gabriel Jesus who doubled the hosts’ advantage 14 minutes later after a neat interchange with Luan, starting for the first time.
Luan struck himself 10 minutes into the second half on a return assist from Gabriel Jesus. Denmark never provided a serious threat and Gabriel Barbosa completed a one-sided victory with 10 minutes remaining to send Brazil top of Group A and on to Sao Paulo for a quarter-final against Colombia. Denmark will face Nigeria.
Iraq and S Africa cancel each other out
SAO PAULO: Iraq and South Africa both wound up their Olympic campaigns after drawing 1-1 in their final Group A match.
Captain Saad Luaibi’s first-half header cancelled out Gift Motupa’s early goal for South Africa though Iraq always looked the more likely winners after creating the majority of the scoring chances.
A victory either way would have been enough to advance to the quarter-finals alongside Brazil rather than Denmark.
Bafana Bafana made a bright start to the match, taking the lead in the sixth minute through Motupa beat goalkeeper Mohammed Hameed after Iraq failed to cut out Andile Fikizolo’s cross from the right.
Iraq levelled in the 14th minute when skipper Luaibi headed home Mohanad Abdulraheem’s corner.
Abdulraheem and Ali Adnan also hit the posts before the interval and Abdulraheem struck the bar in the 55th minute. Mahdi Kamil was then foiled by South Africa goalkeeper Itumeleng Khune when clear in on goal.
The result saw Iraq finish third in Group A with three points from three drawn games, while South Africa finished fourth in the group with two points
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