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Going for gold

Breno and Sosa head-to-head in Beijing

The semi-final pairings in the Men’s Olympic Football Tournament have produced the expected thunderous showdown in Beijing on 19 August between favourites Argentina and Brazil. The eagerly-awaited clash is also a personal head-to-head between Bayern starlets Breno and José Ernesto Sosa.

Both South American giants made heavy weather of their quarter-final matches and were taken to extra-time before booking spots in the last four. 2004 gold medal winners Argentina won 2-1 against the Netherlands, who were without injured captain and former FCB striker Roy Makaay, while Brazil downed Cameroon 2-0.

Sosa on the bench

A 51,366 crowd in Shanghai saw the Gauchos, who left Sosa on the bench for the full 120 minutes on this occasion, open cautiously against the confident and attack-minded Oranjes. However, it was the South Americans who took the lead on 14 minutes when Lionel Messi capitalised on a defensive error to strike a fine solo goal.

The Dutch responded and Otman Bakkal prodded home a 36th minute equaliser. Both teams chased the victory in the second period of normal time but chances went begging for Agüero (48, 54) and Pareja (85) for Argentina and Drenthe (87) and Babel (90) for the Europeans. Angel di Maria latched onto Messi’s exquisite pass after 105 minutes to settle the affair.

No goals conceded

The Brazilians were also forced to work for their 2-0 win in front of a 41,043 crowd in Shenyang. Cameroon were reduced to ten men on 51 minutes when Albert Baning saw a second yellow card, but the Selecao struggled to unpick the Africans’ massed defence. At the other end of the park, the Brazil rearguard featuring Bayern starlet Breno were virtual spectators and made it four games in a row without conceding a goal.

The Brazilians only really threatened from set-plays and long range, but were frustrated in their efforts to break the deadlock in normal time. Rafael Sobis finally netted to hand his side the lead on 101 minutes, before Marcelo sealed the victory four minutes later. The second semi-final features Nigeria against surprise package Belgium.