Friday 12 August 2016, 22:16

Excitement in store with semi-finals in sight

The quarter-finals of the Men’s Olympic Football Tournament Rio 2016 feature teams who have struggled more than they could have imagined to get here, such as Brazil and Germany, and others who were not expected to get so far, leaving the likes of Argentina and reigning champions Mexico by the wayside.

On the menu is an all-South American encounter, a meeting between two European sides with unfinished business, a clash of footballing styles and cultures, and a tactical battle that should feature plenty of pace and explosiveness. looks ahead to four quarter-final ties that promise much.

Match of the day Brazil-Colombia, Arena Corinthians, Sao Paulo, 22:00 (local time) After failing to score in their opening two matches, despite racking up 41 goal attempts – even if only 13 of them were on target – Brazil finally hit their stride with a thumping defeat of Denmark to seal their place in the last eight. Though Neymar has yet to find the back of the net, his young strike partners Gabriel Jesus and Gabriel Barbosa, a.k.a. Gabigol, have proved their worth in front of goal. The host’s biggest concern lies with the No10’s right ankle, which he has been struggling with since the meeting with the Danes.

Facing them is a side that is growing in stature in South American football and which has arrived at Rio 2016 with a much-vaunted front line formed by Teo Gutierrez, Dorlan Pabon and Miguel Angel Borja. The latter, the leading scorer in this year’s Copa Libertadores, will no doubt start on the bench, while Teo – Colombia’s leading marksman at the Games with three goals – and Dorlan have struck up a deadly partnership. Having advanced beyond the group phase for the very first time at the Olympics, Colombia are anxious to kick on and make further progress.

The other matchesIf they can both shake off the fear of losing and play the kind of entertaining, possession-based football they are capable of, Germany and Portugal should serve up an attractive encounter. In danger of suffering an early exit after their opening two games, the Germans advanced in style with a ten-goal rout of Fiji, while the Portuguese arrived in Brazil with problems in midfield but have shown just how much their youth players have to offer. “Germany are strong but we have our attributes too,” warned their coach Rui Jorge.

Honduras and Korea Republic should serve up an interesting tactical duel. La H will be looking to back up their effervescent counter-attacking display against Argentina, a game in which the front three formed by Anthony Lozano, Alberth Elis and Romell Quioto excelled. In topping a group that also featured Germany and Mexico, the South Koreans showed that they can score goals, press as a unit and deny the opposition space. The two sides met in a warm-up match in June and drew 2-2.

Nigeria and Denmark both have wounds to lick after losing their final group matches, not least the Danes, who went into their game with the tournament hosts having kept two clean sheets – thanks in no small part to their keeper Juppe Hojbjerg – only to go and concede four against the hosts. The Africans, who made a number of changes against Colombia, are hoping Oghenekaro Etebo, one of their star forwards, can shake off an injury, while coach Samson Siasia also has the problem of trying to negate the Scandinavians counter-attacking game: “We have to rectify the mistakes we’ve been making at the back because if we lose, we go home.”

Player to watch Kwon Changhoon (Korea Republic)

The South Korean No16 excelled in the group phase, scoring one of the goals of the tournament so far in giving his side victory over Mexico. Fleet of foot, skilful and a direct runner, Kwon is an attacking midfielder who likes to drift out to the left and who, at the age of 22, has already made his full international debut. Hungry for more at Rio 2016, he said: “We’ve knocked out the Olympic champions, but now we need to be mentally strong.”

The words "Obviously it’s in the back of our minds somewhere, but we want to show Portugal what we are made of and qualify for the semi-final." Germany forward Serge Gnabry recalls the 5-0 defeat to Portugal in the semi-finals of the UEFA European Under-21 Championships, a game he featured in along with Matthias Ginter, Timo Horn, Max Meyer and coach Horst Hrubesch.

Match schedule Quarter-finals (all times local) Portugal-Germany (Estadio Nacional, Brasilia, 13:00) Nigeria-Denmark (Arena Fonte Nova, Salvador, 16:00) Korea Republic-Honduras (Estadio Mineirao, Belo Horizonte, 19:00) Brazil-Colombia (Arena Corinthians, Sao Paulo, 22:00)