Tournament favourites Brazil and Argentina set themselves up for
a semi-final showdown, while Nigeria will play Belgium after the Olympic men's
football tournament quarter-finals were played Saturday.
The two South American powerhouses both needed extra time to remain in the
Brazil, looking for the first Olympic gold, eventually beat Cameroon 2-0 while
Benfica midfielder Angel Di Maria scored in extra time to give defending
champions Argentina a 2-1 victory over the Netherlands.
In an all-African derby Nigeria beat Ivory Coast 2-0 and 10-man Belgium sent
Italy crashing out 3-2 in a bad-tempered match.
As football celebrates 100 years as an Olympic sport its showcase match is
unlikely to be in the final as Argentina and Brazil have shown themselves a
class above the rest.
But Brazil, five-time World Cup winners but never Olympic champions, were made
to struggle through regulation time against Cameroon before the breakthrough
came in the 11th minute of extra time Rafael Sobis chipped the 'keeper to break
Real Madrid's Marcelo made it safe with the second goal four minutes later after
leadup work by AC Milan's Ronaldinho and substitute Thiago Neves.
With the legendary Diego Maradona watching from the stands, Barcelona superstar
Lionel Messa gave Argentina an early lead against the Netherlands before Otman
Bakkal drew the Dutch level 11 minutes before half-time.
Despite numerous chances to kill the game off, the score remained locked at 1-1
until Messi fed a pass through to di Maria in the 15th minute of extra-time and
he slipped the ball under goalkeeper Kenneth Vermeer.
Belgium played most of their match against Italy a man down after defender
Thomas Vermaelen was red-carded early but still managed to secure a 3-2 win.
Both of Italy's goals came from penalties as their opponents scrapped throughout
the clash that also featured three yellow cards.
Italy did not concede a goal in the group stages but suffered defensive lapses
in their first knockout match.
Villareal forward Guiseppe Rossi converted the penalty to put the Italians up
1-0 when Vermaelen was given his marching orders.
Belgium struck back when Italian midfielder Luca Cagarini had the misfortune to
have a foot behind the line when he cleared a header from Moussa Dembele.
Mirallas then gave the Belgians an unlikely 2-1 lead with a goal seconds before
Rossi equalised with a penalty in the 74th minute and when the match appeared to
be heading into extra time Demble scored the winner for Belgium.
Nigeria's 2-0 win over Ivory Coast was achieved from a first half goal by Peter
Odemwingie and a penalty in the second half by Victor Obinna.
It was a fast-paced affair with both sides willing to attack at every
opportunity but with a definite lack of finesse
In the end it was Nigeria's inherited experience from six Olympics and one gold
medal which paid off against the Olympic newcomers.