Created on 19-08-2008 at 00:00 AM
Five-times world champions Brazil were plunged into mourning, but arch-rivals Argentina danced for joy after the reigning Olympic champions defeated their bitter South American rivals 3-0 in the Olympic Football Tournament semi-finals to book a place in the gold medal decider against Nigeria on Saturday.
After a goalless first half, a 52,000 crowd in Beijing saw Sergio Aguero put the Gauchos firmly in the driving seat with a brace on 53 and 58 minutes. Captain Juan Roman Riquelme rounded off the scoring from the penalty spot 15 minutes from time, as the lively and determined Argentines deservedly earned the chance to defend the title won by a previous generation at the 2004 Athens games.
Start for Breno
Bayern youngster Breno, an ever-present for the Brazilians in their four previous matches at the event, duly made another start for his country, but fellow FCB starlet José Sosa again began on the bench.
The first half was a cautious affair as the sides probed and pushed for openings, only rarely offering glimpses of the prodigious footballing talent in their ranks. Too many promising and well-executed midfield passing moves broke down in the final third of the field without a shot being directed at goal.
Brace for Aguero
With chances thin on the ground, Aguero (12) and Lionel Messi (41) missed the target with the best openings created by the Albiceleste, while Brazil’s most dangerous efforts fell to Rafinha (12) and Hernanes (43).
The situation changed eight minutes after the restart when Aguero chested his side in front from a 53rd minute Di Maria cross. The game might have taken an entirely different course had Rafael Sobis’ 20-yard drive just a minute later not cannoned back off a post, but instead it was Aguero who seized the chance to double his side’s lead with 58 minutes played.
Late entry for Sosa
Brazil desperately sought to cancel out the first two goals they had conceded at the tournament, but Ronaldinho’s 65th-minute free-kick struck the upright. Riquelme then converted from the spot after Breno tripped Aguero in the box to wrap up Argentina’s triumph with quarter of an hour remaining.
Brazil finished the match with nine men after Lucas and Thiago Neves saw straight red cards for a couple of crude challenges as tempers frayed, before Sosa joined in the action in place of Riquelme shortly before the end. The midfielder and his team are now one game away from their dream of the gold medal, while Breno and his downhearted team-mates meet Belgium on Friday to contest the bronze medal.