U.S. Men qualify for Second Round
Needing a victory in their final group match against a Kuwait sidecoming off a quality victory, the USA had no margin for error if theywere to qualify for the second round of the men’s Olympic football tournament for the first time in history.
But rising to the occasion, the USA ran out comfortable 3:1 victors -and in doing so clinched top spot in Group C on goal difference ahead of Cameroon.
The Football Confederation’s other participant in the Sydney Games, Honduras, saw a young star further demonstrate his pedigree though a final match victory against the host country wasn’t quite enough to secure passage to the quarterfinals.
After opening with a pair of draws against Czech Republic and Cameroon -when by most accounts the USA was the better side in each - only avictory against Kuwait would guarantee advancement. But in wet conditions at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on Tuesday, U.S. goalkeeper Brad Friedel was a virtual spectator as goals by Danny Califf and ChrisAlbright gave USA a commanding 2:0 lead.
An 83rd-minute goal by Bader Najem ensured some nervous moments for theU.S. side, before substitute Landon Donovan clinched the result with agoal five minutes later.
In their opening match, the USA twice led the Czechs, only for the European runners-up to fight back twice for a 2:2 draw.
Josh Wolff was a constant threat for the USA, creating the first goal with his pace on the flank, bursting into the goalmouth to score the second just before the halftime interval. But Lukas Dosek equalized from the spot early in the second half to share the spoils.
Next against Cameroon, the USA was almost left to rue what might have been, failing to convert on a number of chances late in a 1:1 draw.
Both goals came from the penalty spot: Patrick Mboma in the 15th minute after Lauren Etame-Mayer was hauled down in the box, before Peter Vagenas equalized on 65 minutes when Wolff was clipped while trying to round Cameroon goalkeeper Daniel Bekono.
The USA will now face Brazil, South Africa or Japan in the quarterfinal match in Adelaide.
Honduras bid farewell to their first Olympic football competition aftera 2:1 victory against host Australia that saw David Suazo score two more fabulous goals.
Suazo scored in the third and 60th minutes, the lone goal from the disappointing home side through an own goal. Australia finished the Olympics without a victory.
The Cagliari Calcio striker led the goalscorers table after the match with four, his pace and finishing power causing opposing defenders headaches throughout the competition.
Still, Honduras was also left wondering what might have been. In the opening match, the FC Olympic qualifier champions led Nigeria by two goals with 12 minutes to play, only to see the defending gold medallist battle back for a 3:3 draw.
Suazo scored a pair of goals, his second a quarter-hour from time, and along with a long-range strike from Julio Cesar Leon, the Hondurans looked to have posted the first shock of the Games. But substitute Victor Agali scored on 78 minutes, and, in the dying seconds, Yakubu Ayegbeni saved the Super Eagles from a disappointing start with abrilliant long-range blast.
In their second match, Italy all but sealed the Central Americans fate with a 3:1 victory, the European champions outclassing Honduras while scoring three goals in the first 22 minutes. Suazo was again a continual threat, but this time was unable to crack an organized Italian defense.
His two goals helped Honduras take care of their end of the bargain on the final day of Group A play, but Nigeria and Italy fought to a 1:1draw, each team moving on to quarterfinals with the result.