Brazil thrash Denmark in Rio to avoid early elimination from men’s Olympic soccer event

Hosts finally join their own party to advance to the quarter-finals after comfortable 4-0 win over Denmark

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 11 August, 2016, 12:32pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 11 August, 2016, 3:44pm

Brazil finally found their scoring touch in the men’s soccer tournament at the Olympics.

The host country advanced to the quarter-finals by beating Denmark 4-0 Wednesday, avoiding another embarrassing elimination in front of the home fans.

Gabigol scored twice and Gabriel Jesus and Luan added the others at the Arena Fonte Nova as Brazil continue their quest to win the Olympic gold medal in soccer for the first time.

The Brazilians will next play Colombia on Saturday in Sao Paulo.

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Brazil had been held to scoreless draws in their first two group games and needed a victory to guarantee a spot in the knockout round. They ended up first in group A with five points, one more than Denmark, who also advanced and will play Nigeria in Salvador. South Africa and Iraq were eliminated after a 1-1 draw in Sao Paulo.

The convincing victory also helped Brazil regain the support of the local fans, who had been disappointed by their lacklustre performances and had loudly jeered the team in the games against South Africa and Iraq.

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A crowd of more than 40,000 fans was behind the team from the start in Salvador and chanted “the champions are back” during parts of the game.

Led by Neymar, Brazil arrived as favourites to win the Olympic tournament and finally claim the gold medal, which is the only major prize the five-time world champions haven’t won in soccer.

Needing the victory, Brazil attacked from the start and took the lead after Gabigol’s close-range shot from a low cross by Douglas Santos in the 26th minute. Gabriel Jesus added to the lead from near the goal line in the 40th minute after a pass by Luan, who scored the third from near the penalty spot in a play started by Neymar. Gabigol’s second goal came with a shot off a rebound in the 80th.

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Neymar, who had been heckled by some fans after struggling in the first two games, played better and was much more involved in the game. Gabigol and Gabriel Jesus, the 19-year-old forwards touted as two of Latin America’s most promising players, also improved and finally found the net.

Brazil were in danger of another humiliating elimination just two years after the 7-1 loss to Germany at their home World Cup. The senior team also disappointed at the Copa America two months ago, failing to advance from the group stage of the continental competition.

Earlier on Wednesday, two-time Olympic champions Argentina and defending champions Mexico were eliminated from medal contention after failing to advance from the group stage.

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Playing without any of their star names, Argentina needed a win against Honduras but were held to a 1-1 draw at the Mane Garrincha Stadium in Brasilia. It was 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.

Mexico, who brought a stronger team and were again among the title favourites, lost to South Korea 1-0 in Brasilia to end their chances of repeating the triumph of four years ago when they upset Brazil in the final in London.

South Korea will now meet Honduras in Belo Horizonte.

Germany will play Portugal in Brasilia after advancing to the quarter-finals with a 10-0 rout of Fiji at the Mineirao Stadium in Belo Horizonte, the same place where the country’s senior team embarrassed Brazil 7-1 in the semi-finals of the 2014 World Cup. Fiji had already lost 5-1 to Mexico and 8-0 to South Korea.

All quarter-final matches will be on Saturday.