Saturday, August 28, 2004
Argentina captures first Olympic gold
ATHENS, Greece -- Finally Argentina has something Brazil
doesn't: an Olympic soccer gold medal.
After a disappointing silver-medal finish in 1996, Argentina finally has its Olympic gold.
Carlos Tevez scored his eighth goal of the tournament and
Argentina -- for decades in the shadows of five-time World Cup
winner Brazil -- beat Paraguay 1-0 in Saturday's all-South American
"To be champion of the Olympic Games is quite an achievement,"
Argentina coach Marcelo Bielsa said. "What has just happened ...
is something that fills me with happiness."
A day after Argentina's basketball team scored a stunning
victory to oust the United States in the Olympic semifinals, its
soccer players grabbed the spotlight.
Tevez, a 20-year-old Boca Juniors striker who's a likely
transfer target for Europe's top clubs, beat two Paraguayan
defenders to a cross from Mauro Rosales to score in the 18th minute
before 41,116 fans at the Olympic Stadium.
The win made up for two second-place finishes, in 1928 and 1996,
for a nation that craves success in team sports.
"Sports is very important for a large portion of our population
at home," Bielsa said. "Football brings happiness to them.
Therefore we are absolutely delighted for having contributed
After the victory over the United States on Friday night, guard
Manu Ginobili said golds in soccer and basketball would be "the
happiest time ever for us."
That joy was evident following Saturday's match as Argentina's
players held hands and danced in a circle. Although Paraguay came
close to scoring, Bielsa's team was an overwhelming favorite to win
the title and take the gold medal back to South America for the
first time since Uruguay beat Argentina 76 years ago in Amsterdam.
Now Argentina has a title its big South American rival Brazil
has never won. The Brazilians, who won five World Cups, failed to
qualify for the Olympics after being eliminated by Paraguay.
Already an underdog, Paraguay was reduced to nine men after
Emilio Martinez was sent off for elbowing Andres D'Alessandro in
the face in the 67th minute and Diego Figueredo was shown a second
yellow six minutes from the end.
"We were playing a very good side and with a referee who was a
bit knit-picky," Paraguay coach Carlos Jara said. "I don't think
he influenced the result, but he definitely affected our players
psychologically, with so many yellow cards and the sendings off.
"But we tried our best. We had a very difficult competition --
five very tough games in 10-12 days."
The silver medal was still Paraguay's first at the Olympics at
any sport. Italy won the bronze Friday night by beating a
surprisingly strong Iraq team 1-0.
"Obviously we had looked to win the gold, but we are heading
home extremely happy -- we have won a medal," Jara said.
Argentina's victory was a huge relief for Bielsa, who had been
told to come home with nothing but gold.
For Valencia defender Roberto Ayala, it also made up for the
disappointment of the silver medal he collected when Argentina lost
3-2 to Nigeria eight years ago.
If Paraguay didn't already have a tough enough job stopping the
hot favorite, striker Jose Cardozo -- who scored five goals in
Athens, including two in the semifinal beating of Iraq -- was ruled
out because of an injury suffered against the Iraqis.
It didn't take long for Argentina to score.
A break from defense by AC Milan's Fabricio Coloccini started
the move when he ran 30 yards from his own area and released Mauro
Rosales down the right. He crossed to the near post and Tevez ran
between defenders Julio Manzur and Carlos Gamarra to prod the ball
home from six yards.