THE DAY REPLAYED – It was one of those days which had everything, a day when mere sport becomes a spectacle. The quarter-finals of the 2012 Men's Olympic Football Tournament provided fans with a genuine treat, featuring 16 goals, unlucky defeats for two underdogs and the end to a long wait. We witnessed Latin American flair at Wembley, the drama of penalties, and the host nation reduced to tears – all in all, the stuff of which legends are made.
For the first time in 44 years, both Japan and Mexico returned to the Olympic last four. The Asians have yet to concede at the London event, and also ran up their biggest victory in the history of the tournament against Egypt. The Central Americans ultimately prevailed in a thrilling clash with Senegal, who proved their own worst enemies with two utterly disastrous attempted back passes to the keeper in extra time. Japan and Mexico now meet for a place in the final.
Just like Senegal, Honduras were to a certain extent the architects of their own downfall. The Hondurans twice led against hot favourites Brazil, but contrived to have two men sent off and fell to the narrowest of defeats. A Seleção progressed to their sixth Olympic semi-final, levelling the record held by Italy and the former Yugoslavia. They now meet Korea Republic, who held their nerve against Team GB to send the hosts tumbling out of the tournament on penalties.
Goal of the day
Brazil - Honduras, Mario Martinez (12’)
The goal of the day ultimately wasn’t enough for the Central Americans to pull off the sensation of the tournament so far, but it will still live long in the memory. Maynor Figueroa thrust into the box onto Roger Espinoza’s left-wing delivery and attempted to lob the Brazilian defence, the ball falling kindly for Martinez to crash a left-footed volley into the far corner. From that point onwards, the mighty Seleção knew they would be pushed all the way for a place in the semi-finals.
When pleasure turns to pain
After Japan striker Kensuke Nagai rounded Egypt keeper Ahmed Elshenawi on 14 minutes and slotted home the opening goal, he spun away to celebrate but was accidentally caught on the ankle by opposing defender Ahmed Hegazi. Conflicting emotions coursed through the scorer’s veins: Nagai raised his arms in triumph and celebrated wildly with his team-mates, but a grimace of pain rapidly spread across his features. His worst fears came true, as the hero of the hour was forced to limp from the field in agony just a few minutes later.
An authentic Mexican wave
It was only to be expected that Wembley would be packed to the rafters for Great Britain’s matches, but the atmosphere at the famous stadium in north London for the Mexico v Senegal clash was also nothing short of breathtaking. A crowd of fully 81,855 flocked to the ground and enthusiastically cheered on two teams who have both won friends and admirers over the last week. A block of Central American fans in masks and sombreros were in the majority and celebrated their heroes’ goals with what were literally Mexican waves. These were spine-tingling moments in a cracking six-goal encounter with end-to-end action and thrills galore.
Mixed fortunes for Korean keeper
Korea keeper Jung Sungryong got his hands to Aaron Ramsey's first penalty of the match, but the ball crossed the line and Great Britain levelled at 1-1. Jung's second head-to-head with the 21-year-old Arsenal starlet just four minutes later ended in a triumph for the keeper, as he ensured his team went in level at the break and were never forced to chase the game against the hosts. His evening ended with an injury after 61 minutes, but his replacement Lee Bumyoung proved a more than capable deputy with the match-winning save in the penalty shootout.
Stat of the day
4 - Senegal may be out of the tournament, but the Africans have made history nonetheless, as five-goal Moussa Konate scored in all four of his team’s games at London 2012. The last man to emulate the feat was Fyodor Cherenkov at the 1980 Games in Moscow. The striker for the former Soviet Union, who would go on to take bronze at their home tournament, scored in each of his team’s first four matches, but failed to find the net in the semi-final and the third-place match.
“It's magnificent to have both our women’s and men’s teams still here together in London. Our women have already won their World Cup, and we’re now in a position to challenge the world here. My team is getting stronger and stronger with every game!” Japan coach Takashi Sekizuka.