THE DAY REPLAYED – The mythical Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro was packed to the rafters on Wednesday for the semi-final of the Men’s Olympic Football Tournament between Honduras, whose presence in the last four was already something of a surprise, and hosts Brazil, who were keen to make up for their female counterparts’ disappointing defeat by Sweden the night before.
In contrast to the women’s semi-final, which ended in a penalty shoot-out, there was a distinct lack of suspense in the men’s match, as A Seleção recorded an eye-catching and comprehensive 6-0 victory, featuring a dominant performance from Neymar, who provided two assists and scored two goals, one of which (after 15 seconds of play) will go down as the fastest-ever in Olympic football history.
In the other semi-final, Germany took inspiration from their women's side, who beat Canada 2-0 on Tuesday to advance to the final, by seeing off Nigeria by the same scoreline, Lukas Klostermann and Nils Petersen notching the all-important goals at Arena Corinthians.
And so two years after an unforgettable FIFA World Cup™ semi-final, from which the Germans emerged victorious 7-1, Brazil will now have a chance to gain some semblance of revenge at the Maracana on Saturday, where they will lock horns with Horst Hrubesch’s charges in the gold medal match.
That same day, Honduras and Nigeria will battle it out in Belo Horizonte for the consolation prize of a bronze medal.
Brazil 6-0 Honduras
Nigeria 0-2 Germany
Goal of the day
Brazil 3-0 Honduras, Gabriel Jesus (35')
Neymar, picking the ball up in his own half, spotted Gabriel Jesus making a useful run down the left. The Barcelona star served up the perfect through ball for his strike partner, who accelerated past his opposite number, Marcelo Pereira. Driving through on goal, he found himself one-on-one with Luis Lopez, and duly dispatched an unstoppable shot into the roof of the net.
It took Neymar just 15 seconds to open the scoring against Honduras and register the Olympic Football Tournament’s quickest-ever goal. Subsequently, thousands of Brazilian supporters endured a rollercoaster of emotions as the young striker collapsed to the ground holding his ribs while celebrating his breakthrough strike, which had involved an awkward fall in the box. But after being treated at length on the sidelines by Brazil’s team of physios, Neymar returned to the pitch, much to the delight of the expectant crowd.
After Honduras skipper Bryan Acosta was substituted halfway through the second half, the captain’s armband was passed to goalkeeper Luis Lopez. Due to his gloves, however, the Catrachos custodian was initially unable to slide it up his arm. In the end, it was Brazil captain Neymar, demonstrating exemplary Olympic spirit, who came to the aid of his opponent.
Having racked up 19 goals – dispatched by six different goalscorers – prior to their match with Nigeria, Germany arrived in Sao Paulo as the Olympic Tournament’s highest-scoring side. Lukas Klostermann was not one of those scorers, and before Wednesday’s encounter he had never managed to find the net for his country at any age category. The energetic full-back promptly shrugged off that statistical anomaly in Sao Paulo, breaking the deadlock early on by knocking home an accurate low cross by Maximilian Meyer and sending the Germans on their way to a first Olympic final.
“Neymar truly is ‘O Monstro’, but in the nicest possible sense of the term. He’s a gift to the world of football. He’s incredibly talented and has a big influence on our games and on the squad. He had a lot of pressure on his shoulders; he deserves some respect,” Brazil coach Rogerio Micale.
Saturday 20 August (all times local)
Bronze medal match
Honduras-Nigeria, Belo Horizonte 13:00
Gold medal match
Brazil-Germany, Rio de Janeiro, 17:30