One match to go for Brazil. Only Mexico stands in the way of its first Olympic gold in football.
Brazil moved a step closer to winning the elusive medal by beating South Korea 3-0 on Tuesday and reaching the final of the men’s Olympic tournament for the first time in 24 years. It will face Mexico, which defeated Japan 3-1 at Wembley.
Brazil was the bronze-medallist in 2008 in Beijing but hadn’t reached the final since the 1988 Seoul Games, when a team led by Romario and Bebeto finished with the silver.
Brazil also won the silver in the 1984 Los Angeles Games and got another bronze in the 1996 Atlanta Games. Now only the gold will do for a team which came into the London Games with most of its country’s best players and as the top favourite.
But the Brazilians struggled early against South Korea at Old Trafford before taking control of the match after defensive midfielder Romulo opened the scoring with a low shot from inside the area following a pass by playmaker Oscar in the 38th minute.
Damiao scored twice in the 57th and 64th minutes to seal the victory and become the tournament’s leading goal-scorer with six goals, surpassing Senegal’s Moussa Konate.
Calm and collected
Coach Mano Menezes said his players were not letting the pressure affect their preparations for the final.
“We’ve been dealing well with this,” said Menezes. “I don’t think the players feel they have this weight on their backs because we don’t have this medal. That’s great because it would be an unwanted obstacle for the team in addition to the one we will have on the field.
“The players are not over-confident,” Menezes said. “I don’t think I’ll need to have a chat with them about this, I could tell by the way the players behaved in the locker room after the South Korea win. They were quite calm.”
Menezes gave the players the day off on Wednesday and treated them to a barbecue at the team’s hotel in London, but they’ll have to get back to work on Thursday.
The Brazilian coach also praised the Mexican team. “I always thought that Mexico was better prepared for the Olympics than any other side,” said Menezes.
The result (semifinal): Brazil 3 (Romulo 38, Damiao 57, 64) bt South Korea 0. — AFP