Sunday 14 August 2016, 04:34

Defensive discipline produces final four

THE DAY REPLAYED – Defensive solidity was the order of matchday eight at the Olympic Football Tournaments, with the four men’s semi-finalists producing displays based on a solid bedrock. Brazil, Germany, Honduras and Nigeria all kept clean sheets in their respective quarter-finals as Colombia, Portugal, Korea Republic and Denmark could find no way past and exited the competition. FIFA.comrecaps the action.

The hosts’ remarkable defensive prowess is something that has gone somewhat under the radar during their difficult Rio 2016 campaign, but Brazil have yet to concede at the tournament, having now kept their opponents out for a remarkable six hours. That statistic is made all the more noteworthy considering Weverton, their goalkeeper throughout the remarkable run, was an 11th-hour call-up as a replacement for the injured Fernando Prass.

Honduras’ own shot-stopper Luis Lopez was the hero in Belo Horizonte, as he produced a string of stunning saves to keep Korea Republic out and help his country to the final four at an Olympics for the first time. Two of his most notable stops saw him keep out a Son Heungmin first-half volley and a close-range Moon Changjin effort after the interval. A swift counter-attacking goal from Los Catrachos saw off the London 2012 bronze medal winners.

Nigeria’s Emmanuel Daniel has two consecutive clean sheets to his name at Rio 2016, after his unbeaten 90 minutes against Sweden in the group stages and having kept out a Danish side who wilted under the African side’s pressure in the second half in Salvador. Germany’s Timo Horn had only slightly more to do against Portugal than in his side’s final group game against Fiji, but he too picked up a second consecutive clean sheet as the Germans romped to victory against the Portuguese in Brasilia.

Results*Quarter-finals** Portugal 0-4 Germany Nigeria 2-0 Denmark *Korea Republic 0-1 Honduras Brazil 2-0 Colombia

Goal of the day*Portugal 0-4 Germany, Philipp Max (87’)*Max only entered the fray with eight minutes of the Germans’ ruthless performance remaining, seemingly to rest some legs ahead of the semi-final with the score already at 3-0. Max did not let that hold him back, making himself a nuisance to the Portuguese all over the pitch. This was epitomised by his goal, for which he worked hard down the German left to retain possession before setting Julian Brandt free into the Portuguese penalty area. The No11 performed a step over before playing a lovely reverse ball to Max, who had followed up on his initial pass by hitting an assured, curling effort away from Bruno Varela and into the top corner.

Memorable moments*A hug for Horst *Davie Selke started Rio 2016 leading the line for Germany, and went goalless in the first match against Mexico. He scored against Korea Republic but was not in the starting XI for the final group game against Fiji, having been substituted off in the preceding two matches. The No9 did not make it onto the pitch as the Germans put ten past the Oceania outfit, with Nils Petersen grabbing five. Many were perhaps surprised then to see Selke start the quarter-final against Portugal. The RB Leipzig forward repaid coach Horst Hrubesch’s faith in him by scoring his side’s third, which put the tie beyond doubt, and duly sprinted to the 65-year-old to administer an emotional bear hug.

Lopez lays down in celebration** Honduras goalkeeper Luis Lopez was the undisputed hero against Korea Republic, keeping his side in the tie with fine save after fine save. The final whistle sparked emotional jubilation at the side's historic feat - a first Olympic semi-final - as the team laid an Honduran flag down on the pitch, with Lopez in the centre of a circle as the side joined in prayer to celebrate their semi-final berth.

Neymar ends his Olympic drought** Brazil’s No10 is certainly not used to waiting, especially when it comes to scoring goals for his country. However, 501 minutes of Olympic football had passed from the moment he slotted home a penalty against Honduras at London 2012, until the Barcelona forward began to calculate the trajectory of a free-kick outside the Colombian penalty area. The captain duly dispatched the set-piece into the net, and his celebration was a mix of jubilation and relief. The goal also had some catharsis, coming as it did versus Los Cafeteros, against whom he picked up his World Cup-ending injury in 2014.

The words"I think we had a great performance today. We stuck together as a team, our system worked very well against Portugal and I think we deserved to win. Our goal is obviously to win the whole tournament. We came here with this goal and hopefully we can carry on in the next game." Germany midfielder Serge Gnabry after scoring his sixth goal of Rio 2016 against Portugal.

Next matchday*Wednesday 17 August ** Semi-finals Brazil - Honduras, Rio de Janeiro, Maracana, 13.00 Nigeria - Germany, Sao Paulo, Arena Corinthians, 16.00 (All times local)*