Argentina and Mexico eliminated at Rio's men soccer tournament

AP , Thursday 11 Aug 2016


There won't be a third soccer gold medal for Argentina. Nor a second for defending Olympic champion Mexico.

The traditional powers were eliminated early from the men's Olympic tournament, dealing another blow to Argentine soccer following the senior team's loss in the Copa America final in June and the ongoing crisis enveloping the sport at home.

Playing without any of its biggest stars, Argentina needed a win against Honduras but was held to a 1-1 draw at the Mane Garrincha Stadium in Brasilia.

Honduras advanced along with Portugal, which won Group D after a 1-1 draw against last-place Algeria in Belo Horizonte. Honduras and Argentina finished with four points each, but Honduras had the edge on goal difference.

Striker Antony Lozano scored for Honduras from the penalty spot in the 75th minute and Mauricio Martinez equalized for Argentina on a free kick during second-half injury time.

Both teams missed penalties when the match was scoreless. A shot by Honduras captain Bryan Acosta was saved by Argentina goalkeeper Geronimo Rulli just before halftime; Argentina playmaker Angel Correa hit the post in the 55th.

The Brazilian crowd, disappointed by its country's two draws at the stadium earlier in the tournament, loudly celebrated the elimination of its South American rival. The hosts have to defeat Denmark later Wednesday in Salvador to reach the quarterfinals and avoid another huge embarrassment at home following the World Cup two years ago.

Mexico, which upset Brazil in the final of the 2012 London Games, failed to advance after a 1-0 loss to South Korea in Brasilia. The Mexicans needed a victory to reach the quarterfinals.

Germany moved on from Group C after routing Fiji 10-0 with five goals by Nils Petersen and three by Maximilian Meyer at the Mineirao Stadium in Belo Horizonte, the same place where the country's senior team embarrassed Brazil 7-1 in the semifinals of the 2014 World Cup. Fiji had already lost 5-1 to Mexico and 8-0 to South Korea.

Argentina won the Olympic gold medal in 2004 and 2008, the last time with a squad that included Lionel Messi. It did not play at the 2012 London Games and was not considered among the favorites in Rio de Janeiro.

This latest loss underscored the problems of Argentine soccer. The country's federation is in financial chaos, and the Olympic team was left without a coach when Gerardo Martino resigned a month before the Rio Games. That left successor Julio Olarticoechea with little time to prepare a team led by youngsters Jonathan Calleri and Correa. There was even the possibility the nation would skip the tournament because of the turmoil. The loss in the Copa America final prompted a startling announcement by Messi that he was retiring from the national squad.

Argentina opened the Olympic tournament with a 2-0 loss to Portugal and needed to rally from a goal down to defeat Algeria 2-1 in its second game.

Honduras, which also lost to Portugal and beat Algeria, will be playing among the last eight for the second straight Olympics. It was eliminated by Brazil in the quarterfinals in 2012.

Portugal is trying to improve on its fourth-place finish from two decades ago, when a squad led by Nuno Gomes and Sergio Conceicao missed on the bronze medal. The last time it played in the Olympics was in 2004, when it failed to reach the knockout stage despite a team featuring Cristiano Ronaldo, Bruno Alves and Hugo Almeida.

Portugal's senior team won the European Championship for the first time last month.

The men's soccer tournament is played with under-23 squads but nations can add three older players.

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