Suspense and twists as four teams reach quarter-finals
THE DAY REPLAYED - The identity of four of the eight quarter-finalists in the Olympic Football Tournament are now known after a night of high-tension across Greece. Argentina are through having won both of their opening games to top Group C and they will be joined by the runners-up in that group, Australia. The Olyroos finished level on points with Tunisia but their superior goal difference meant they progress while the North Africans must head home. Meanwhile in Group A, Mali and Korea Republic emerged from an eventful match with the draw that suited them both, though Mexico did their utmost to pip them at the post. Follow a minute-by-minute account of all the thrills and spills of a suspense-filled night in Greece.
The concluding matches of Group A and Group C of the Olympic Football Tournament got underway with only Argentina already guaranteed a place in the quarter-finals. Serbia and Montenegro knew that having failed to register any points so far they only had their pride to play for, but all the other teams were still in with a shout of progressing. The drama unfolded as follows:
Korea Republic 0-1 Mali, Thessaloniki, 7th minute
Mali wasted no time showing they meant business. Just seven minutes in, Tenema Ndiaye, who had scored against Greece in a previous match, fired his country into the lead. At that point, with Mexico and Greece still goalless in the other game, both the Malians and the Koreans were through.
Argentina 1-0 Australia, Athens, 9th minute
Argentina have exuded quality in everything they have done so far in the Tournament and though they knew they were already safely through to the next round they had no intention of going easy on the Olyroos. Nine minutes in, young Wolfsburg sensation Andrès d'Alessandro plundered his first goal of the tournament. Tunisia would need to beat Serbia and Montenegro by five clear goals, but bearing in mind the Europeans had already conceded 11 goals in two matches, nobody was ruling that out …
Korea Republic 0-2 Mali, Thessaloniki, 24th minute
|Mohamed Jedidi of Tunisia celebrates a goal against Serbia and Montenegro|
Serbia and Montenegro 0-1 Tunisia, Patras, 41st minute
Time for Australia to start worrying as Tunisia draw level with them on four points by going 1-0 up in Patras through a magnificent strike from Clayton - the Espérance front-man produced a magical flick with the outside of his boot to divert a cross high into the net. Tunisia knew they required at least four more goals to grab a quarter-final spot.
Greece 0-1 Mexico, Volos, 47th minute
Mexico have failed to ignite since the beginning of the competition and they nearly fell behind in the first half tonight when, after 42 minutes, Panagiotis Lagos picked out Dimitrios Papadopoulos on the edge of the six yard box but the striker failed to find the target. The Central Americans perked up in the second period though, and stole a march on the profligate Greeks just two minutes after the break. Rafael Marquez got on the end of a clever Zinha pass and from ten yards out he sent the ball past the Korean goalkeeper and into the net. That strike meant Mexico leapfrogged the Koreans by virtue of their better goal difference (0 for Mexico, -1 for Korea Republic)
Korea Republic 0-3 Mali, Thessaloniki, 55th minute
There was no end in sight to Ndiaye's one-man show in Thessaloniki. Ten minutes into the second half, the Malian claimed a fine hat-trick and in the process became the tournament's top scorer (four goals). Korea hit rock bottom and it seemed like they would shortly be boarding a flight home. But the night was still young …
Korea Republic 1-3 Mali, Thessaloniki, 57th minute
An improbable fight-back begins in Kaftanzoglio Stadium as Jae Jin Cho diverts a teasing cross into the net. The Koreans suddenly have renewed spring in their stride …
Korea Republic 2-3 Mali, Thessaloniki, 59th minute
Two minutes after opening their account, the Koreans double their score, and again it is that man Jae Jin Cho who delivers the decisive touch, and again with his head. It is still not enough for the Asians, however, as the Mexicans remain ahead on goal difference (with 0 as opposed to -1 for the Koreans).
Korea Republic 3-3 Mali, Thessaloniki, 64ème minute
The Koreans are suddenly tearing all sorts of holes in the Malian defence and just seven minutes after getting off the mark they grab an incredible equaliser when Adama Tamboura attempts to cut out a vicious cross but only succeeds in diverting it into his own net. As things stad, both teams are now into the quarter-finals - it would suit them quite nicely if there were no more goals.
Greece 0-2 Mexico, Volos, 70th minute
Mexico have not given up hope and embellish their goal difference, which could come in handy if there are any further developments in Thessaloniki. The Koreans are still one point ahead and Omar Bravo's close-range strike looks like mere consolation - but there is plenty of time for things to change and the goal could yet prove crucial.
Serbia and Montenegro 1-1 Tunisia, Patras, 70th minute
|A win was not enough to see Mexico through|
Greece 1-2 Mexico, Volos, 82nd minute
The huge home crowd in Volos finally get something to cheer as Ioannis Taralidis brings Greece back into the match and dents Mexico's quarter-final bid by converting a penalty. Mexico face elimination as the clock ticks down …
Serbia and Montenegro 1-2 Tunisia, Patras, 83rd minute
Tunisia are not prepared to go down without a fight and they regain the advantage thanks to the composure of Mohamed Jedid. After awarding the Tunisians a penalty, referee Charles Ariiotima spies repeated encroachment and orders the spot-kick to be retaken until he is satisfied no one has entered the box prematurely - Jedid's goal is eventually allowed to stand after six attempts! Tunisia now have the same points total as Australia again, but are still four goals worse off.
Greece 1:3 Mexico, Volos, 86th minute
Mexico are still refusing to accept elimination and make the Koreans and Malians sweat right till the end. Omar Bravo picked up a sublime Ismael Iniguez pass to plunder his second goal of the game. At almost exactly the same time in Thessaloniki the irrepressible Ndiaye comes within centimetres of putting Mali back in front and Mexico into the quarter-finals, but his shot comes back off the woodwork …
Serbia and Montenegro 2-2 Tunisia, Patras, 87ème minute
The amazing second half in Patras continues as Simon Vukcevic taps the ball home from close range to bring his side level and virtually seal Tunisia's elimination. Laabibi's men now only have three minutes to hit five goals.
Serbia and Montenegro 2-3 Tunisia, Patras, 89th minute
Five goals were to prove too steep a mountain to climb, but the Tunisians at least ensured they could return home with their heads held high by snatching a last-gasp winner via a lovely Ali Zitouni header. Pleased though they must be by the victory, the North Africans were probably left thinking about what might have been if they had just managed to score a few more goals, since in the end Australia scraped through by having a better goal difference (+3 compared to -1). Australian joy was tempered by the knowledge that three of their most important players - Craig Moore, Tim Cahill and Ahmad Elrich- will be suspended for the quarter-final.
Greece 2-3 Mexico, Volos, 93rd + minute
The Mexicans are also left to rue missed chances as they concede a goal deep into injury time from Ieroklis Stoltidis just moments after Amaury Ponce had driven a free-kick against the post. Even if that shot had gone in however, the draw between Mali and Korea Republic, which had looked likely ever since the Koreans had got their amazing equaliser, meant Mexico would still have been knocked out.