It has been a long time coming - 52 years in fact - but Argentina at last have their hands on Olympic Gold. Marcelo Bielsa's all-conquering side beat neighbours Paraguay 1-0 in the Olympic Stadium in Athens to clinch Argentina's first-ever triumph at the Men's Olympic Football Tournament. The winner came almost inevitably from Carlos Tévez, who finished the tournament as top scorer with eight strikes to his name.
FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter was on hand to watch the Albicelestes finish off a spectacular campaign that has seen them win all six of their games and score an impressive 17 goals. If that were not remarkable enough, the South Americans became the first side to win a FIFA competition without conceding a goal. Paraguay, who finished the tie with only nine men, also had cause to celebrate, as their silver medal was the first of any description in the nation's history.
A combination of final day nerves and the searing mid-morning heat took their toll in a very tight first half. The colourful crowd of 41,116 saw Paraguay revert to type, working the offside trap well, and trying to counter when they could. Bielsa's side also stuck with a winning formula and looked to playmakers Andrés D'Alessandro and Luis González to create the openings up front. The game's first chance fell to Paraguay's Diego Figueredo, who tested the Argentine keeper in the first minute. The River Plate keeper was perfectly positioned to save the well-struck shot (1').
That turned out to be a rare Paraguayan sight on goal as the Albicelestes immediately stamped their authority on the game. Diego Barreto had to be very sharp to keep Cristian González at bay (8'), but his goal would not remain intact for much longer. Fabricio Coloccini won back the ball in his own half, and then broke down the right, making light work of the Paraguayan midfield. The blond defender then fed the ball through to Mauro Rosales, who swung an inch perfect cross into the path of Carlos Tévez. The Boca Juniors striker, as he has done throughout the competition, gave the keeper no chance with the deftest of right-foot flicks (1-0; 18').
Paraguay did expose a few nerves in the Argentinian defence with some high crosses in the first period. Fredy Bareiro was almost able to capitalise on one, but unfortunately for him he saw his header loop over the crossbar (24'). Jara's men were clearly missing their injured striker José Cardozo, and did not threaten again in the first half.
Just after the half hour, Bielsa's side began to find the target with more regularity and the frustration of the Paraguayan defenders was obvious in their rash and often heavy-handed challenges. As for goal scoring chances, the best of them came just before the break. First D'Alessandro hit his left-foot shot well wide after some excellent approach play (42'), and then Tévez drew a great save from Barreto after a powerful strike with his right (43').
After the interval, Paraguay briefly threatened when Aureliano Torres fired in a curling free kick. Lux showed why he is unbeaten all tournament by diving to his left to safely hold the ball (48'). Argentina hit straight back and a great chance fell to Mauro Rosales to double the lead, but with the goalkeeper stranded, the youngster could only find the side netting with his downward header (50'). Moments later the Guaraní goal was under threat again after D'Alessandro and Cristian González linked up well. The final shot fell to Tévez who fired low and wide (53').
As the minutes ticked away, Argentina controlled possession well, while Paraguay were unable to hold the ball in midfield and take the pressure off their defence.
After Barreto had saved spectacularly from Luis González on the hour, things took a turn for the worse for Paraguay. When Emilio Martínez was spotted elbowing D'Alessandro (66'), the Greek referee did not hesitate to show him a straight red. As so often happens, the ten men rallied and a neatly worked one-two between Figueredo and Pablo Giménez forced a marvellous one-handed save from Lux on his goal line (72').
Gamarra, who had spearheaded the Albirroja defence throughout the tournament, again came to his side's rescue when he cleared a certain Delgado goal off the line (75'). After the scare, Paraguay threw everything they had at Argentina, bombarding their area with high balls, but another expulsion would see their dreams of a comeback go up in smoke. This time it was Figueredo who had to walk after being shown a second yellow card for deliberately handling in the area (83'). There was only time for a few late Argentinian chances but the result was never in doubt. Athens 2004 will now be engraved on the minds of all Argentinians as the year they won their first Men's Olympic Football Tournament.