CARDIFF: Mexico, despite having made a slow start to the 2012 Olympics, Mexico beat Switzerland in their third and final preliminary game to finish top of Group B.

The Mexicans were dominated in the opening exchanges, but Giovani Dos Santos and Oribe Peralta combined brilliantly midway through the second half to secure a 1-0 win, a result that sees the promising Swiss eliminated.

Switzerland started with speed and precision, controlling the pace of the game in the opening exchanges. Innocent Emeghara was a constant thorn in the side of the Mexican defence and, by contrast, Swiss goalkeeper Diego Benaglio had precious little to do at the other end in the opening 45 minutes.

Amir Abrashi burst into the Mexican rearguard as early as the 7th minute, but his shot flew wide by a healthy margin. Admir Mehmedi was left all alone ten minutes later, pouncing on a deflection from Emeghara, but after being challenged by goalkeeper Jose Corona, he could only slam his off-balance shot against the crossbar.

Giovani Dos Santos, on from the start for the first time at the London Olympic Games, had Mexico’s first chance two minutes from the interval. He picked up a pass from Darvin Chavez, but his firm shot was well saved by Benaglio. The striker then had another chance, in stoppage time of the first half, but his free-kick sizzled just past the top corner.

Mexico came out from the locker-room at halftime pushing forward into attack early and often. Oribe Peralta fired in a pair of shots in the first five minutes of the period, but Benaglio was equal to the task on both occasions.

After another chance from Jorge Enriquez, the Mexicans drew first blood in the 69th minute. Dos Santos drew the defence toward him with some elegant approach work. The ball eventually fell to Peralta, and the Santos Laguna striker made no mistake, hammering home between Benaglio’s long legs.

The Swiss seemed stunned in the closing stages and as they pressed forward, the Mexicans had a number of chances to increase the lead. In the end, the 1-0 result was enough to see the North Americans through the quarter-finals as section winners, while the Swiss head for home wondering what might have been.

Gabon 0 South Korea 0

WEMBLEY: South Korea confirmed their place in the Olympic quarter-finals despite being held by Gabon at Wembley.

Hong Myung-Bo’s side had an early chance to take the lead when a long ball from left-back Kim Young-Gwon found Park Chu-Young, but the Arsenal forward’s shot was comfortably saved by Didier Ovono.

The Asians had an even better opportunity to take the lead almost ten minutes later when Ovono, diving low to his left, pulled off a stunning save to keep out Koo Ja-Cheol’s side-footed effort from 12 yards.

Wembley was forced to wait 15 minutes for the next noteworthy piece of action. Yun Suk-Young’s cross from the left and headed towards goal by Koo, but the ball flashed narrowly wide of the post.

Meanwhile, it took Gabon until the 43rd minute to create a chance of their own. Levy Madinda hit a shot from the edge of the box which failed to trouble the goalkeeper.

Korea Republic had a renewed sense of purpose after the break and could have taken the lead shortly after half-time when a corner from the right from Ki Sung-Yueng was chested down by Park Chu-Young, but the striker blazed the ball over from close range.

Shortly before the hour mark, Celtic midfielder Ki Sung-Yueng had two good chances to take the lead, but fired well over on both occasions.

From nowhere, Gabon almost took the lead in the 65th minute. Madinda picked up the ball on the edge of the box and hit a dipping shot which struck the outside of the post. There was a similar occurrence 15 minutes later when Jerry Obiang spotted Jung Sung-Ryong off his line and hit a dipping lob which the keeper had to scurry back and tip over the bar.

The introduction of Sunderland’s Ji-Dong Won opened up the game and he went close to scoring, but could not connect properly with a left-wing cross and the chance went begging.

In the closing stages, Steve Nzambe struck a free-kick beautifully with his left foot which flew narrowly over the bar, but 0-0 was how it stayed.

The result, combined with Mexico’s win over Switzerland ensures that Korea Republic finish second in the group. They now travel to Cardiff to face the winners of Group A, while Gabon head home.


= = = =