Friday 05 August 2016, 07:53

Big guns falter on dramatic opening day

THE DAY REPLAYED – Starting off with a 0-0 draw (Iraq-Denmark) and culminating in a veritable goalfest (Nigeria 5-4 Japan), the opening day of the Men’s Olympic Football Tournament Rio 2016 had a little bit of everything in between. Portugal put on a strong display against Argentina, Sweden and Colombia served up plenty of suspense, while there was excitement aplenty in Honduras-Algeria. There was even room for a resounding victory as Fiji succumbed to Korea Republic, and a surprising stalemate in the Brazil-South Africa fixture.

It was a day during which the highly fancied sides, not least Brazil, generally struggled to impose themselves. Mexico, gold medallists at London 2012, were held by Germany, while Sweden and Colombia also had to settle for a share of the spoils. Portugal, meanwhile, got their Olympic campaign off to a solid start by defeating Argentina 2-0.

Results Group A Iraq 0-0 Denmark Brazil 0-0 South Africa

Group B Sweden 2-2 Colombia Nigeria 5-4 Japan

Group C Mexico 2-2 Germany Fiji 0-8 Korea Republic

Group D Honduras 3-2 Algeria Portugal 2-0 Argentina

Goal of the day*Fiji-Korea Republic, Ryu Seungwoo (93') * Although the South Koreans racked up an impressive number of goals in their clash with Fiji, fans in Salvador had to wait until the final seconds to enjoy the game’s most eye-catching strike. Lurking outside the box, Ryu Seungwoo expertly controlled a ball floated over the top, taking Fiji defender Nickel Chand out of the equation in the process. All that then remained was for the sprightly midfielder to coolly drive the ball past goalkeeper Simione Tamanisau into the roof of the net.

Memorable moments Ups and downs between the sticks While the opening day of the Men’s Olympic Football Tournament was notable for some fine goalkeeping performances, from Jeppe Hojbjerg (Denmark), Mohammed Hameed (Iraq), Itumeleng Khune (South Africa), and Weverton (Brazil) in particular, some of the other custodians had Olympic debuts to forget. That was the case for Algeria’s Farid Chaal and Argentina’s Geronimo Rulli, both culpable of handling errors that led to goals, and for Fiji’s Simione Tamanisau, who had the unfortunate task of picking the ball out of the net eight times.

The Etebo show Oghenekaro Etebo was in unstoppable form against Japan on Thursday, soaring to the top of the competition’s scoring charts after notching four goals in Manaus. It was the first time since the 1972 Olympics, when Bernd Nickel managed the feat in a 7-0 win for West Germany against United States, that a player had hit the target more than three times in one match.

South American struggles Home fans turned out in great numbers in Brasilia for the host nation’s first group match, but their party was gatecrashed somewhat by a resilient South Africa team, who were good value for a point. A 0-0 stalemate is not a score to which Brazil are accustomed at this level; indeed, the last time they were held to a scoreless draw was at Montreal 1976. Brazilian supporters may take some solace from the fact that Argentina suffered a defeat at the hands of Portugal – the first time in 56 years that their old rivals have lost their opening match at the Olympic Games.

Woodwork whims Goalkeepers across Brazil were saved by the post and crossbar on numerous occasions on Thursday, with Iraq, Honduras, South Africa and Portugal all benefitting from the woodwork. The German and Algerian keepers, who conceded goals from Oribe Peralta, Rodolfo Pizarro (both Mexico) and Marcelo Pereira (Honduras) that either went in off the crossbar or resulted from a rebound off the bar, did not enjoy as much luck.

The words“I thought we played well, but we just couldn’t find the net in the end. I had a golden opportunity, but I hit the post. I don’t know what happened; I was a bit unlucky. I think I’m going to have trouble getting to sleep tonight, because I’m not used to missing those types of chances.” Brazil forward Gabriel Jesus* * Next matchdaySunday 7 August (all times local)* *

Group A Denmark-South Africa, Brasilia 19:00 Brazil-Iraq, Brasilia, 22:00

Group B Sweden-Nigeria, Manaus, 18:00 Japan-Colombia, Manaus, 21:00

Group C Fiji-Mexico, Salvador, 13:00 Germany-Korea Republic, Salvador, 16:00

Group D Honduras-Portugal, Rio de Janeiro, 15:00 Argentina-Algeria, Rio de Janeiro, 18:00