Belgium shocked heavily fancied Italy in Beijing on Saturday to book a semi-final date with Nigeria, who edged out neighbours Côte d'Ivoire over in Qinhuangdao. The other semi-final will pit Brazil against Argentina in a pure South American clasico, as the Seleção edged Cameroon and Messi's Albiceleste beat the Netherlands 2-1 in extra time.
The big game
The clash between Italy and Belgium in Beijing proved one of the most scintillating affairs of these finals. After being reduced to ten men and conceding a penalty mid-way through the first half at the Workers' Stadium, the Belgians somehow gained momentum and strength in the face of extreme hardship. Moussa Dembele drew them level five minutes later and Kevin Mirallas put them in front in the closing moments of the first half. Giuseppe Rossi scored his second penalty for the Italians in the second period, but Dembele made it 3-2 to cap a dream night for Belgium with nine minutes to go as both sides finished with ten men under a full moon in the Chinese capital.
The other games
Brazil needed extra time to put an end to Cameroon's courageous fight over in Shenyang in front of over 41,000 fans. Albert Baning saw red for a second bookable offence just after the interval, but the West Africans held strong to force extra time against a surprisingly subdued Brazilian outfit, with Pato, Thiago Neves and Jo starting on the bench. Rafael Sobis finally put the South Americans on the board in the 101st minute after latching on to a devilish through ball from Diego. Then, in the 105th minute, Real Madrid left-wingback Marcelo ended the affair in front of visibly disappointed Indomitable Lions legend Roger Milla, watching from the stands.
There was also a special guest in attendance as Argentina shaded the Netherlands in Shanghai: one Diego Armando Maradona. With spectators' eyes alternating between on-field genius Leo Messi - who danced his way to Argentina's opener in the 14h minute - and El Diego in the stands, the Albiceleste managed to seal the deal in extra time when Messi sent Angel Di Maria in for a goal after Otman Bakkal had equalised for the Dutch shortly before half-time.
In the night's all-African quarter-final in Qinhuangdao, Peter Odemwingie opened the scoring in the first half after a cautious start to the action. Then - with just eight minutes left - Victor Obinna stepped up to hammer home a spot kick and bring his goals tally in China to three, tying him with Dembele for second-top marksman.
The player: Moussa Dembele (BEL)
Few were giving Belgium much of a chance of beating Italy in their quarter-final in Beijing on Saturday. But the AZ Alkmaar man's never-say-die spirit exemplified the team's best qualities and brought him to the second-top in the scorers' chart. His two goals in the 3-2 win, and all-around tormenting of the Italian defence, mark one of the supreme individual displays of these Beijing finals. It is no wonder the Belgian fans were chanting his name at the final whistle.
390 - the number of minutes Brazil have gone without conceding a goal at these Olympic finals. At the other side of the pitch, they have hit the net 11 times, making them one of the good bets to take Gold.
What they said
"This was one of those games that we just couldn't quite find a way to finish off. Cameroon are a very strong team and we're going to have to beat more very good teams if we want to win gold," Brazil coach Dunga when asked about Cameroon's impressive resistance.
All the results
Italy 2-3 Belgium
Brazil 2-0 Cameroon a.e.t.
Nigeria 2-0 Côte d'Ivoire
Argentina 2-1 Netherlands a.e.t.