Sergio Aguero scored his first goals of the Men’s Olympic Football Tournament, helping to engineer Argentina’s dazzling 3-0 victory over ancient rivals Brazil in Beijing. The reward for their last-four victory is a final date with Nigeria, who beat Belgium 4-1 in Shanghai earlier today.
The contest started at a pace befitting a clash between two of the oldest and greatest rivals in world football. After cautious flirtations with the goal at either end, the first golden chance came in the 12th minute when Schalke’s jet-heeled Rafinha burst up the right wing and crossed dangerously. Lone Brazilian striker Rafael Sobis, however, was unable to get a toe to the ball at full stretch.
Only seconds later, Sergio Aguero collected a quick free-kick inside the Brazilian area, but he somehow conspired to pull his shot wide of the near post with the goalkeeper at his mercy.
With 33 minutes on the clock, Lionel Messi, a fan favourite in China PR, began to make his mark on the match. A wasted free-kick from Juan Roman Riquelme fell to the Barcelona gem, but his arrow-like cross through the six-yard box eluded his fellow attackers.
Messi’s best moment of the opening half came with four minutes to go. Jinking brilliantly through the penalty area, he forced Brazil keeper Renan into a reflex save that kept his side level at the interval.
Argentinian pressure picked up early in the second half, and Aguero’s good work finally paid dividends in the 52nd minute. After linking up with Fernando Gago, Angel Di Maria slammed a chest-high cross from the left that the striker shouldered into the back of the net from close range. Shortly after, Ezequiel Garay crossed low from the left side and the man they call ‘El Kun’ made no mistake, tapping home his second goal in six minutes.
Inspired by their talisman, Ronalidinho, Brazil nearly hit back on 65 minutes. The new AC Milan signing slammed a vicious free-kick off Sergio Romero’s post, and although Alexandre Pato managed to scramble the resulting rebound home, the referee signalled he was in an offside position.
It was the second time in the half the Brazilians had struck the woodwork, with Rafael Sobis hitting the very same post just minutes before. But their luck would only get worse before it got better.
Aguero was again the focal point for Argentina’s third goal. After collecting a pass from the effervescent Messi in the penalty area in the 74th minute, the Atletico Madrid forward was hacked down by Breno for a penalty. Captain Riquelme stepped up to do the honours, hammering up through the gut of the goal.
Brazil’s miserable night was completed in the last ten minutes when Lucas and Thiago Neves were both sent off for cynical fouls on Javier Mascherano.
The gold-medal match between Argentina and Nigeria, both former winners, will take place at the Bird’s Nest National Stadium on 23 August. Brazil will take on Belgium for Bronze in Shanghai the day before.