Argentina, Brazil and three African nations in football quarter-finals


Beijing : South American giants Argentina and Brazil Wednesday qualified for the quarter-finals of the Olympic football tournament, where they will be joined by the African trio Nigeria, Cameroon and Ivory Coast.

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The other three teams through are Belgium, Netherlands and Italy.

The South American teams are scheduled to met in the semi-finals, but before that Brazil need to beat Cameroon and Argentina have the Netherlands to deal with in the quarter-finals.

The other quarter-final matches see Italy take on Belgium and Nigeria face Ivory Coast in an all-African encounter.

Watched by NBA star Kobe Bryant, who said he wanted to see Lionel Messi in action, Argentina beat Serbia 2-0 in Group A, while Brazil won 3-0 against the hosts in Group C.

The other Group A game saw the Ivory Coast win 1-0 against Australia through Salomon Kalou’s late goal, while Belgium defeated New Zealand 1-0.

In the Workers Stadium in Beijing, Bryant must have been disappointed as the already-qualified Argentina started with Messi on the bench.

Although Messi and Bryant waved at each other before the game, Argentina coach Sergio Batista did not bring on the Barcelona player even though the near-capacity crowd in the 61,000-seater stadium kept on chanting his name and booed every time another substitution was made.

The defending champions opened the scoring in the 14th minute after Marko Jovanovic fouled Angel Di Maria in the area and Omani referee Abdullah Al Hilali pointed to the spot, from where Ezequil Lavezzi scored.

Serbia could have equalized on the half hour as a free-kick from 30 metres by Aleksandar Kolarov forced Sergio Romero into a good save.

Five minutes from the break Lavezzi nearly made it two for the South Americans as he pushed the ball past goalkeeper Vladmir Stojkovic, but Slobodan Rajkovic cleared off the line.

In the second half Serbia had more of the game, but Argentina had the best chance to score after getting a second penalty. Di Maria’s spot kick, however, was well saved. The referee then ordered the kick retaken and Stojkovic again saved.

The South Americans scored a second six minutes from the end of the game when Diego Buonanotte scored with a well taken freekick that he bent over the wall.

Serbia ended the game with ten men after Zoran Tosic was sent off.

Argentina tops the group with nine points, while Ivory Coast has six.

Brazil also finished on nine points in Group C after goals by Diego and a Thiago Neves brace gave them a 3-0 victory against China. Belgium, who beat New Zealand with goals by Faris Haroun also went through.

Earlier, Nigeria beat a ten-man US team 2-1 in a Group B match in the Workers Stadium in a game in which the Americans, who were topping the group going into the last game, were reduced to ten men after just three minutes.

German referee Wolfgang Stark sent off Michael Orozco for elbowing Nigerian forward Solomon Okoronkwo. Although virtually no contact was made the Bundesliga-based forward went down theatrically, leaving Stark few options.

Nigeria scored their opening goal seven minutes from the end of the first half through Promise Isaac, who was set up in the area by Obasi.

The Americans had two opportunities to come back early in the second half, but Stuart Holden first missed from close range and then none of the forwards were on hand to push in a ball Danny Szetela had lobbed over goalkeeper Ambrose Vanzekin.

In the 79th minute Nigeria scored their second through Victor Obinna who beat Guzan from close range.

America were handed a lifeline three minutes from the end when Vanzekin had a rush of blood and lunged with two legs at Maurice Edu. Stark pointed to the spot and Sacha Kljestan made no mistake in converting.

Two minutes later substitute Charlie Davies saw his header from a Dax McCarthy free-kick hit the crossbar.

Nigerian coach Samson Siasia was highly critical of his team after the victory. “I actually feel like I lost the game. We were very lucky and we did not play how you are supposed to play against a team with just ten men, especially if they have to play for ten after just three minutes.

“Football is meant to be played by 11 players, not just by one. The players have to get their heads down and play according to instructions.”

The result sees Nigeria top the group with seven points from the Netherlands, who finished on five after beating Japan with a 73rd minute penalty from Gerald Sibon.

In Group D, Italy and Cameroon played to a goalless draw — a result that sees Italy go through first with seven points, while Cameroon advance on five.

South Korea’s 1-0 victory against Honduras through a goal in the 23rd minute by Kim Dong Jin was not enough to see them advance.