South American giants Brazil needed to be at their very best to thwart a lively, attack-minded Korea Republic in their semi-final at Old Trafford in Manchester on Tuesday. The 3-0 result was a flattering scoreline for Mano Menezes’s men, who now march on to Saturday’s final against Mexico at Wembley Stadium, where both sides will be desperate to take home a first-ever Olympic football gold medal.
Brazil, tipped to have little trouble against the South Koreans in the pre-game discussions, found themselves under heavy pressure in the first 20 minutes of the game. The Asians earned their first chance of the contest after only 12 minutes when an almighty melee in the Brazilian penalty area saw the ball pop out to Kim Hyunsung. His dangerous cross was met at the back post by Ji Dongwon, who was denied by Sandro’s desperate clearance.
A Seleção were under the cosh again just two minutes later when Kim Hyunsung lobbed the ball over Brazilian goalkeeper Gabriel, but fortunately for the stopper Juan Jesus was in position to deal with the danger. Ji Dongwon went close again just two minutes later, but his shot from range sailed wide of the top corner.
At the 20-minute mark Brazil began to claw their way back into the game. Real Madrid wingback Marcelo beat four Koreans with a piece of incredible approach work before setting up Leandro Damiao, who took Brazil’s first shot on goal. Just seconds later, Sandro nearly caught out keeper Lee Bumyoung with a delicate chip, but it was too weak to cause any real trouble.
Brazil were pressing now and they had a golden opportunity in the 23rd minute. Lee Bumyoung had to dive across his goal to keep Sandro’s stinger out, and Leandro Damiao had a chance to put home the rebound from a tight angle only for his effort to roll through the goal box.
The resurgent Brazilians finally got the ball across the goal-line seven minutes from the interval. Oscar began a classic counter-attack after Sandro stripped the ball in midfield. The recent Chelsea signing held the ball just long enough to carve out some space for Romulo, who was able to put the ball under Lee Bumyoung’s outstretched leg and into the back of the net.
The Koreans, with a number of changes to their regular side, had two chances to draw level on both sides of the break. Ji Dongwon’s sizzling effort soared up and over the bar in first-half stoppage time, while he brought the ball down on his chest after a long, looping free-kick early in the second half, only to blaze over the crossbar on the half-volley.
Brazil weathered the storm much as they did in the first half, managing to double their lead in the 57th minute. Marcelo raced forward once again,combining with Neymar, who raced into the box before pulling the ball back for the Real Madrid defender, who had continued his run. Marcelo missed his kick,but right behind him was Leandro Damiao, who made no mistake for his fifth goal of these Olympic finals.
He added another in the 64th minute as the game looked to be getting away from the Koreans, perhaps tired from their epic extra-time win over hosts Great Britain three days before. Neymar raced across the penalty area, with the ballending up at the feet of Oscar. Leandro Damiao was on the scene to toe-poke home after the ball was poorly cleared by a Korean defender, making him the Olympic Games’ leading scorer.
Brazil will take on Mexico in the gold-medal match at London’s Wembley Stadium on 11 August, while the Koreans fight for bronze against neighbours Japan.