Iraq roar into last eight; all to play for in Group B
THE DAY REPLAYED - Iraq's 2-0 win over Costa Rica on Sunday evening saw them secure maximum points from their first two games and book a place in the last eight. Qualifying for the quarter-finals is an extraordinary feat for a team deprived of decent training facilities, unable to play any games at home and rated rank outsiders for the Men's Olympic Football Tournament. Group B, meanwhile, remains wide open after tonight's proceedings and goes down to the last round of matches. Italy top the standings on four points but only on goal difference from Ghana, with Paraguay just a point behind in third.
Ghana hit Paraguay on the break
Ghana met Paraguay at the Kaftanzoglio Stadium in Thessaloniki. The Africans seized the initiative in the opening exchanges against the defensively-minded South Americans. The sides then cancelled each other out somewhat until the break, but the game opened up in the second period after Paraguay's Carlos Gamarra headed his side in front. The South Americans pressed for a second goal but were caught cold by the fast-breaking Ghanaians, as William Tiero levelled before Stephen Appiah notched the winner.
Fine first-half seals Italy win
Under the watchful gaze of FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter, Italy got off to a great start against Japan at the Panthessaliko Stadium in Volos, Daniele de Rossi firing the European giants into a third-minute lead with a spectacular bicycle kick. Alberto Gilardino then helped himself to a brace before the interval, with Japan replying once for a 3-1 scoreline at half-time. The Italians focused on protecting their lead in the second half, keeping the Japanese at bay until stoppage time and holding on to win 3-2. The defeat means Japan can no longer qualify for the quarter-finals.
Iraq spring second surprise
A passionate crowd again showed up at the Karaiskaki Stadium in Athens to roar on Iraq against Costa Rica. Neither side made much of an impression in the first half, but Iraq took control in the second period and sealed a deserved victory with two goals in five minutes from Mohammed Hawar Mulla and Manajid Ahmed. Iraq's second win in two games sees them safely through to the quarter-finals.
Three points for Portugal
Morocco and Portugal faced off at the Pankritio Stadium in Heraklion. The North Africans initially asked a few questions of the South European defence, but the Portuguese assumed control midway through the first half, and Cristiano Ronaldo handed his side the lead five minutes before the break. The same player doubled the advantage from a free-kick in the second half, and although the Moroccans were spurred into action they had only a Bouabid Bouden strike five minutes from time to show for their efforts. The Portuguese survived the final onslaught for a much-needed victory.