Three is the magic number
© Foto-net

The big conclusion to be drawn from the second round of men's matches at Beijing 2008 is that Argentina, Brazil and Italy are a cut above the rest of the field, one of the main reasons for that being the classy forward lines the three giants can call upon.

With so much attacking firepower on display it was no surprise to see the goals fly in, with the eight games throwing up a total of 25 in all. Among the sides on the receiving end were Honduras and Japan, who saw their quarter-final hopes vanish into the rainy skies hovering above China. rounds up all the news from another intense day of Olympic football action.

The big game
Few defences would be able to blunt the attacking trio of Ronaldinho, Alexandre Pato and Anderson and, after feeling their irresistible force in Shenyang today, the New Zealand rearguard are not about to disagree with that assertion. The Manchester United midfielder set the Auriverde on their way before the Milan duo got to work on besieged Kiwi keeper Jacob Spoonley. Pato showed he is just as deadly in the air as he is on the ground, while Ronaldinho scored his first competitive goals since 12 December 2007 with a trademark free kick and a typically clinical penalty. Rafael Sobis completed the rout in injury time as the Brazilians qualified in style.

The other games
Two other leading contenders with potent attacking tridents of their own are Argentina and Italy, who swept into the next round after seeing off Australia and Korea Republic respectively. The Albiceleste front line of Lionel Messi, Sergio Aguero and Ezequiel Lavezzi had the Olyroos' defence chasing shadows for most of the afternoon, although Lavezzi's solitary strike was all the South Americans had to show for their efforts. The Azzurrini had a somewhat easier time against the Koreans, with Giuseppe Rossi and Tommaso Rocchi chipping in with a goal apiece, ably assisted by fellow front man Sebastian Giovinco.

Not to be outdone, Côte d'Ivoire can call on a useful triumvirate themselves in Gervais Yao Kouassi, Salomon Kalou and Sekou Cisse, the latter scoring his second goal of the tournament to help the Elephants to a 4-2 win over Serbia. Nigeria's strike trio of Victor Obinna, Solomon Okoronkwo and Victor Anichebe helped break Japan's resistance on a day to forget for the Asian contenders, among them hosts China, who had two men sent off as they succumbed 2-0 to Belgium despite the support of a passionate 45,000 crowd.

Stephane Mbia's Cameroon side picked up their first win of the competition at the expense of Honduras, whose bravery could not make up for their technical deficiencies. The USA showed plenty of spirit as they came back from an early Ryan Babel goal to lead the Netherlands 2-1 with just seconds remaining. The Dutch had the last laugh, however, Gerald Sibon conjuring up an equaliser deep into added time.

The player
Having regained his rhythm against Belgium, Ronaldinho was back to his best against in Brazil's emphatic 5-0 defeat of New Zealand. A pivotal influence in all his side's best moves, the new AC Milan star found the back of the net twice and was all smiles as he dedicated the win to a very special spectator. "I'm delighted to have scored a couple of goals, and I'm sure my father was very happy watching this match from up there in heaven."

The stat
8 -
The number of wins Argentina have now strung together in Olympic matches. Six consecutive victories in Athens took them to the gold medal four years ago and the Albiceleste have now added two more in China.

What they said
"If it hadn't rained today, we would have won for sure." Asked by a reporter if the wet conditions were the cause of his side's defeat to Argentina, Australia coach Graham Arnold comes up with an ironic response, much to the amusement of the assembled press corps.

"I love playing attacking football and seeing my players in constant movement. I can promise you the same style when I take over as China coach." Côte d'Ivoire coach Gerard Gili proves a big hit with the Chinese journalists.

All the results
Argentina 1-0 Australia
Serbia 2-4 Côte d'Ivoire
Nigeria 2-1 Japan
USA 2-2 Netherlands
New Zealand 0-5 Brazil
Belgium 2-0 China PR
Cameroon 1-0 Honduras
Italy 3-0 Korea Republic