Brazil-Argentina, Belgium-Nigeria Olympic soccer semi-finals

August 17th, 2008 - 1:35 am ICT by IANS  

Beijing, Aug 16 (DPA) South American giants Brazil and Argentina set up one mouth-watering Olympics men’s football semi-final Saturday, while the other will see Belgium take on Nigeria. Brazil made heavy weather of their win again bogey team Cameroon and Argentina also had a tough time against the Netherlands, as both matches went into extra time. Brazil won 2-0, and Argentina won 2-1.

Belgium were surprise 3-2 winners in a lively encounter with Italy, while the all-Africa battle saw Nigeria emerge 2-0 winners over Cote d’Ivoire.

Rafael Sobis and Marcelo struck in the 11th and 15th minutes of extra time for Brazil’s win over Cameroon, a side they were longing to beat after being knocked out of the 2000 Olympic tournament by them in Sydney.

The win in Shenyang Olympic Stadium was a hard-fought affair which left the Ronaldinho-directed attack again and again frustrated by a determined Indominatable Lions defence.

Ronaldinho tested Cameroon goalkeeper Amour Tignyemb from a free kick early on, and later produced a cross that went just wide off the head of Rafael Sobis.

Cameroon’s Albert Baning was sent off early in the second half for a foul on Lucas - but while Brazil had most of the possession, the match ground into extra time.

Then, in the 101st minute, a long pass from Diego found Rafael Sobis, and the Real Betis striker coolly finished. Four minutes later, a Ronaldinho and Thiago Neves build-up found Marcelo in front of goal to hit home.

In their Beijing Workers’ Stadium encounter, Belgium’s winner came from a 79th-minute from Moussa Dembele - the striker’s second of the match after he opened his side’s scoring with a 23rd-minute header off a corner.

That goal levelled up Guiseppe Rossi’s 18th-minute penalty opener for Italy after Thomas Vermaelen had been shown the red card by Argentine referee Hector Baldassi for hauling down the lively Robert Acquafresca in the area.

Dembele’s strike partner Kevin Mirallas hit home in first-half injury time to let the Belgians take a lead into half time.

Rossi struck again from the penalty spot in the 74th minute for the Italians after Sepp De Roover fouled Paolo De Ceglie in the area.

Five minutes later, Dembele got the winner, latching onto the through ball from substitute Anthony Vanden Borre. Italian goalkeeper Emiliano Viviano was sent off in an ensuing tussle with Mirallas.

Nigeria’s 2-0 win over Cote d’Ivoire in Qinhuangdao saw a midfield stalemate in the first half until Victor Obinna on the stroke of half-time passed to Peter Odemwingie who struck a first-time shot which flew past the dive of Vincent Angban and into the net.

Their second came in the 81st minute when Chinedu Ogbuke Obasi went clear only to be brought down by Souleymane Bamba inside the box. Victor Obinna made no mistake with the penalty.

Argentina’s win at the Shanghai Stadium against the Netherlands saw Barcelona star Lionel Messi shine with an early goal and a dream through ball for the extra time winner from Angel di Maria.

Messi’s first came in the 14th minute. Calvin Jong-A-Pin’s unsuccessful clearance fell to the youngster’s feet, and he slotted the ball in the left corner of the net.

Argentina began to dominate a lively first half - but it was the Dutch who found the net in the 36th minute, when Jonathan De Guzman’s free kick was not fully cleared by Javier Mascherano and Otman Bakkal was positioned perfectly to hit home.

The match turned into a grimly fought affair as coach Sergio Batista’s men were repeatedly thwarted by the Dutch defence.

Relief came for the South Americans on the stroke of the first half of extra time, when Messi threaded the ball inside the Dutch defence to the onrushing di Maria, who left-footed home in a flowing movement.

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