THE DAY REPLAYED – A dramatic final day of group matches at the Men’s Olympic Football Tournament Rio 2016 was dominated by spot-kicks, with seven penalties in the eight games across Brazil. Four were scored, three squandered, with the tensest of tussles between goalkeeper and penalty-taker playing a key sub-plot in the denouement to Groups A to D.
Hosts Brazil, and specifically Gabriel Barbosa, did not need a penalty in their game against Denmark to end their Olympic drought after over almost three-and-a-half hours of football without a goal. Gabigol grabbed a goal either side of half-time, sandwiching efforts from Gabriel Jesus and Luan as A Seleção defeated Denmark to finish top of Group A. The Danes joined them in the knockout stages thanks to South Africa and Iraq's 1-1 draw in Sao Paulo.
Goncalo Paciencia’s penalty against Algeria was the first spot-kick of the day, helping seal Portugal’s spot at the top of Group D. Argentina and Honduras stepped up to the 12-yard mark three times in their clash, with Antony Lozano converting a crucial penalty which ultimately saw Los Catrachos into the last eight after team-mate Bryan Acosta and La Albiceleste’s Angel Correa had both missed spot-kicks of their own, the latter most crucially, as the 2004 and 2008 winners crashed out.
Germany demolished Fiji 10-0 to seal their progress to the quarter-finals, Max Meyer seeing his penalty saved by beleaguered Fijian ‘keeper Simione Tamanisau before Nils Petersen converted his own successfully. Colombian Dorlan Pabon scored a penalty at the home of his former club Sao Paulo to help Los Cafeteros to a surprise 2-0 victory over Nigeria, which saw the South Americans progress to the knockouts, while Korea Republic sealed their spot in the last eight, and eliminated London 2012 gold medal winners Mexico, without the need of a single spot-kick.
Algeria 1-1 Portugal
Argentina 1-1 Honduras
Germany 10-0 Fiji
Korea Republic 1-0 Mexico
Colombia 2-0 Nigeria
Japan 1-0 Sweden
Denmark 0-4 Brazil
South Africa 1-1 Iraq
Goal of the day
Korea Republic 1-0 Mexico, Kwon Changhoon (77’)
The tension was palpable at the Estadio Nacional throughout the Group C clash between the Asians and the North Americans, an atmosphere that was relieved with less than 15 minutes remaining. Suwon Bluewings midfielder Changhoon wriggled his way past two Mexico defenders just outside the penalty area, before unleashing a fiercely struck effort with his left foot into the top corner, leaving Mexico goalkeeper and captain Alfredo Talavera with no chance.
Tamanisau takes the limelight
Fiji conceded 23 goals in their three games at Rio 2016, ten of those coming in their final group match against Germany, so you would think highlights for their goalkeeper Simione Tamanisau in Brazil would be and few and far between. The Rewa FC stopper did have one moment to cherish though, during the Oceanian's game in Belo Horizonte. Facing down diminutive Nationalmannschaft captain Max Meyer, who already had a hat-trick to his name, the Fiji No1 dived low to his left to push away Meyer's spot kick. He would go on to concede two more, but for that single moment he thwarted the German No7, Tamanisau felt like a titan.
Pabon’s penalty return
Colombian forward Dorlan Pabon signed for Brazilian outfit Sao Paulo in the build-up to the 2014 FIFA World Cup™, with one eye on making his national side’s squad for the global finals. That did not quite work out, but the now-Monterrey man has made a return to Brazil for Rio 2016 and was back at the scene of his first Brazilian sojourn on Wednesday. Pabon, who when at Tricolor took a spot-kick in place of legendary penalty-taking goalkeeper Rogerio Ceni, stepped up to the 12-yard mark against Nigeria – and duly converted.
“It’s something different and beautiful to come back here playing for the national team,” Pabon told FIFA.com after the game. “The football player is usually in contact with multiple cities during his career, and that’s a special thing. My stay in Sao Paulo was short, but I felt the love from the fans.”
Gabigol breaks the tension
The long wait was over. The 206-minutes the nation spent anticipating a Brazilian goal in the Men’s Olympic Football Tournament was torture for the watching fans across the football-mad nation, and the tangible tension in the air at the Arena Fonte Nova was lifted by Gabriel Barbosa. Douglas Santos whipped a devilish delivery into the box which Luan stretched for and missed, but Gabigol was on hand to finish. Remarkably, the goal was also celebrated 900 miles away in Sao Paulo at the Corinthians Arena, where the hosts’ Group A rivals South Africa and Iraq were facing off. Chants of “Brazil! Brazil!” erupted in the stands, with Brasileiros in Sao Paulo sharing a moment of joy with their compatriots around the country.
“He has really great quality with his left foot. What an unbelievable shot! This game was really difficult for our attacking players. We had one chance, that’s football. Sometimes you score like that. Also, I believe we deserved to win this group and be number one. We are really happy now but we have to focus now against Honduras.”
Son Heungmin, on Kwon Changhoon’s matchwinner against Mexico
Saturday 13 August
Portugal-Germany, Brasilia, Estadio Nacional, 13.00
Nigeria-Denmark, Salvador, Arena Fonte Nova, 16.00
Korea Republic-Honduras, Belo Horizonte, Estadio Mineirao, 19.00
Brazil-Colombia, Sao Paulo, Arena Corinthians, 22.00
(All times local)